Pakistani President Says Blasphemy Law May Be Revised

Bishops Welcome Announcement

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

MULTAN, Pakistan, MAY 25, 2004 ( The bishops of Pakistan cautiously welcomed President Pervez Musharraf’s announcement of a possible revision of the anti-blasphemy law mandates death for anyone who attacks the Islamic religion.

The announcement was made during a recent congress held in Islamabad, when Musharraf said that some norms in the Islamic criminal code might be corrected.

His statements were welcomed by the country’s bishops, who have been calling for the abolition of the blasphemy law, reported Vatican Radio.

Minorities and human rights organizations have pointed out that the norm has been one of the causes of hatred between the faithful of various religions in Pakistan.

Recently, Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha, president of the episcopal conference, expressed «the hope and prayer that the president would proceed resolutely in this direction, eliminating this persistent anomaly of Pakistani legislation.»

Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, voiced his «full support» for Musharraf’s announcement. However, Jacob also called for prudence, because one must «first see the facts.»

Muslim leaders, however, were disconcerted, and expressed their opposition to any modification of the existing legislation.

Article 295-c of Pakistan’s Criminal Code — identified as the «Law on Blasphemy» — condemns «all those who in words or writings, gestures or visible representations, with direct or indirect insinuations, insult the holy name of the Prophet.»

Introduced in 1986, the blasphemy law allows for the incarceration of the alleged transgressor in virtue of statements made by any citizen. The denunciation can be based on simple oral statements, so it favors the use of the law as a means of personal vengeance.

The blasphemy law is also manipulated by Muslim militants to persecute Christians or anyone who does not agree with them.

In April 2000, Musharraf already announced changes in the law to reduced the risk of such abuses. However, the amendments were withdrawn the following month due to popular pressure, fueled in particular by some Muslim preachers.

Of Pakistan’s 143 million inhabitants, 75% are Sunni Muslims, 20% are Shiites and 2% are Christians. Catholics total 1.2 million.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation