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Senator announces to boycott in camera meetings to discuss blasphemy law

Senator announces to boycott in camera meetings to discuss blasphemy law

ISLAMABAD: Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri on Wednesday announced that he will boycott meetings of the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology if in camera meetings are held to discuss a proposed law seeking equal punishments for those convicted of blasphemy and those who make false accusations of blasphemy.

The Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Bill 2018 was moved on the directions of Islamabad High Court after Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui ordered last year during a case that those who make false accusations of blasphemy should be given the same punishment as those convicted of blasphemy.

The bill was later prepared by the government and was referred by the upper house to the committee for discussion.

Govt bill seeks same punishment for false allegations of blasphemy as for those convicted of it

Chaired by Senator Rubina Khalid, the committee decided not to discuss the bill in the absence of Information Technology Minister Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, who tabled the bill in Senate but Senator Haideri still started discussing the issue.

“The matter is being discussed in the religious circles and we are of the view that such kinds of bills should not be passed. Many people register baseless cases of theft, robberies and other crimes and people are killed in the main markets but the aggrieved families cannot prove murder because witnesses refuse to record their statements in the court,” Mr Haideri said.

“Why is it that punishment has only been suggested for those who cannot prove their allegations of blasphemy and not in other cases? I assume the law is being made to ensure no one files a blasphemy case in fear of being punished,” he said.

Senator Rehman Malik said that the law will stop the misuse of blasphemy law as the record shows that most blasphemy cases are registered against Muslims.

“Levelling false allegations is a big crime in Islam. I believe levelling false allegations of blasphemy is also blasphemy. I also suggest that the bill be discussed in camera due to the sensitivity of the matter,” he said.

He also suggested that a clause should be added in the law for bringing blasphemers from abroad to Pakistan as most such incidents take place out of the country.

“Whenever something happens in Pakistan, representatives of other countries demand we hand over the accused to them and they cite their law. But we cannot do the same because our law does not support it,” Mr Malik said.

Ms Khalid said it is the duty of all Muslims to ensure no one misuses the name of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

“It has now been seen that in the case of Rimsha Masih, the allegation was made in order to get land vacated,” she said.

In 2012, a Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, who was mentally challenged, was arrested in a case of blasphemy in Islamabad but the allegations proved to be false.

Retired Justice Mohammad Raza Khan, who was invited to the meeting for his opinion, said there is already a comprehensive blasphemy law in Pakistan and that there is no need for further legislation.

“I believe the government introduced the law due to the high court order. The committee can reject the bill because parliament is not bound to implement the suggestions of the high court and there is also no need for the duplication of the law,” he said.

Mr Khan said the government did not want to challenge the high court decision as it did not want to get into any controversy.

Senator Fida Mohammad also suggested the matter should be discussed in camera due to its sensitivity and the committee chairperson endorsed the suggestion.

However, Senator Haideri said he will not sit in an in camera meeting. He then walked out, saying he did not want to be part of such a meeting.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018

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