Pakistan court suggests changes to notorious blasphemy law to stop its misuse
Islamabad: A court in Pakistan has asked the government to make changes to the controversial blasphemy law to stop its misuse for personal interests and fix tougher punishment for any person falsely accusing someone of the crime, which is punishable by death.
Islamabad high court justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui issued a verdict on Friday in the case regarding elimination of “blasphemous” content from social media. In the 116-page detailed judgment, justice Siddiqui suggested that Parliament make the blasphemy law tougher by fixing the same punishment for any person misusing it or falsely accusing someone of “blasphemy”, Dawn reported on Saturday. The judge explained how people, due to their personal enmity, managed to drag their rivals into “blasphemy” cases endangering the life of not only the accused person but all his family members and relatives.
Under the existing law, the false accuser can only face proceedings under Section 182 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Section 182 entails the maximum punishment of six months or a fine up to Rs1,000 only. The judge said this is a very minor punishment for such a serious offence of accusing someone of “blasphemy”. He said that due to the misuse of the law, even critics demanded abolishing it. He said that it was better to stop exploitation of the law rather than abolishing it.
“Admittedly, not a single convict whether Muslim or non- Muslim has ever been executed for blasphemy in Pakistan,” the judgment added. The judge referred the matter to the legislature to amend the law for awarding the same punishment for lodging a false complaint under the blasphemy law. Besides, the court directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to create a firewall to block unwanted and sacrilegious content in Pakistan.
The court acknowledged steps taken by the federal government to eliminate such content from the social media. It, however, directed the interior ministry and other departments concerned to vigorously take up the matter with the Facebook management. In case the Facebook management does not remove the indecent content and revered personalities, the website may be banned completely in Pakistan, the verdict said.
“Blasphemy” is a very sensitive issue in Pakistan. Blasphemy laws were introduced in the 1980s and no government could dare change them despite allegation of misuse. However, it might be possible to amend them after the verdict.PTI