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Parliament Seeks Blasphemy Law Amendments

by Newsweek Pakistan

Farooq Naeem—AFP

Pakistan’s National Assembly and Senate have called for insertion of ‘safeguards’ to prevent its abuse

The National Assembly on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution condemning the brutal lynching of university student Mashal Khan and called for amendments to the blasphemy laws to prevent ‘such atrocities in the future.’

“This House unanimously condemns the barbaric and cold-blooded murder of Mashal Khan and resolves to ensure that strong safeguards may be inserted into the blasphemy law to prevent its abuse through such atrocities in the future, including by mobs involved in such crimes,” said the text of the resolution, which was signed by the ruling PMLN’s Rana Tanveer Hussain, Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada, Chaudhry Muhammad Barjees Tahir, and Syed Imran Ahmad Shah; the PPP’s Syed Khursheed Shah; the PTI’s Shireen Mazari and Arif Alvi; the MQM’s S. A. Iqbal Qadri; the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party’s Mahmood Khan Achakzai; the Jamaat-e-Islami’s Sher Akbar Khan; and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl)’s Asiya Nasir.

The resolution adds: “This House strongly demands the Federal and Provincial governments to take strict action, in accordance with law, against the perpetrators and facilitators of this heinous crime, including those making hate speeches. This House condemns all those who take the law into their own hands and engage in vigilantism, resulting in loss of innocent human lives.”

On April 14, Mashal Khan, a student at Mardan’s Abdul Wali Khan University, was beaten up, shot and then mutilated by a mob of fellow students for alleged blasphemy. Police have since found no evidence of any blasphemy, and one of the accused has alleged that the university administration provoked the mob due to personal enmity with Mashal.

A day earlier, the Senate had also called for amending the blasphemy law to punish anyone found guilty of false accusations. Condemning Mashal Khan’s lynching, lawmakers in the Upper House of Parliament said the blasphemy law was routinely misused and should be revisited. The PPP’s Farhatullah Babar backed a proposal requiring those who leveled false accusations to be awarded similar punishments as those found guilty of blasphemy. The PMLN’s General (retd.) Abdul Qayyum said the lynching was an example of “savagery” and did not represent Islam. He said the law should be examined to ensure such extra-judicial actions were appropriately punished.

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