Senate’s committee on Human Rights is all set to take up debate on the inevitable issues of how to prevent the misuse of blasphemy laws in the country. The matter has been met with great hostility from the religious outfits who are strong proponents of the legislation. Under this law, the guilty party must either face capital punishment or imprisonment.
While remarking in this regard, Pakistan People’s Party’s Senator Farhatullah Babar told the media that the Senate Committee on Human Rights, will start discussions on blasphemy laws soon. He said that this discussion will start as early as next week, and will be centered around the recommendations contained in a report which is 24 years old. He further asserted that this will be the first time ever, when a parliamentary body will be considering a formal proposal on how to prevent the misuse of the blasphemy laws.
Senator Farhatullah Babar further said that the proposal under consideration will impose obligatory investigations before a blasphemy case is registered. This will ensure whether the allegations are genuine or fake and that the law was not being used to settle personal scores. He further revealed that the committee will be also discuss the probability of whether life imprisonment was an appropriate punishment, as an alternative to mandatory death penalty.
In 1991, the Federal Shariat Court while deciding a petition of Mohammad Ismail Qureshi held that the alternative punishment of life imprisonment provided in Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) was unacceptable in light of the injunctions of Islam.
Till date, none of the respondents have been executed under this law. Majority of those awarded the death penalty have either had their sentences overturned or commuted on appeal against the sentences.
International Commission for Justice in its 2015 report on the implementation of blasphemy laws in Pakistan revealed that more than 80 per cent of the convictions by trial courts are reversed on appeal. This was mainly because the appellate courts found the evidence and complaints invented upon the grounds of “personal or political vendettas.”