ISLAMABAD, Dec 29: In a move to appease religious parties, the government told the National Assembly on Wednesday it had no mind to change the controversial anti-blasphemy law often seen misused against members of minority communities, but appeared calm against political theatrics of some volatile allies.
Religious Affairs Minister Khurshid Ahmed Shah interrupted the house proceedings to make a policy statement “with full responsibility” that the “government has no intention to repeal the anti-blasphemy law and to disown a private bill of a PPP member proposing changes in the Zia-era law to abolish a mandatory death sentence against a convict provided by it and to guard against miscarriage of justice.
The government assurance came ahead of what has been described as a countrywide “shutter down strike” called for Friday by a religious grouping seeking to protect the dignity of the holy prophet Mohammad (PBUH), or “namoos-i-risalat”. “The government regards safeguarding ‘namoos-i-risalat’ as its responsibility and believes in it”, the minister said and, in a reference to the daft submitted by former information minister Sherry Rehman but yet to come before the house, added: “If someone has brought a private bill, it has nothing to do with the government.”
Mr Shah also assured the house that the government would not allow any wrong done to minorities, which have often complained of false accusations made against their members under a law enforced by former military dictator Gen Mohammad Zia-u-Haq as part of his controversial campaign to Islamise the Pakistani society. But he did not specify any measures to do that.
The strike call was given by a “Namoos-i-Risalat” conference held in Islamabad on Dec 15 under the auspices of Majlis-i-Tahafuz Khatam-e-Nabuwat (association for the protection of the finality of prophethood), which was also attended by the representatives of some banned religious groups operating under new names.
Another important bill which would grant justice to victims of acid attacks by seeking life term for permanent disfigurement of a person`s face or any other part of body by acts like acid-throwing will probably be buried proceedurally. This too is a concession to the Islamic fundamentalists.