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Pakistan prelate livid at blasphemy law give in
Government caved in to extremists, says head of bishop’s conferencePeople in Lahore protest any change in the blasphemy laws (File photo)
- ucanews.com reporter, Lahore
- February 4, 2011
â€śItâ€™s a mistake giving in to pressure by Islamic parties. The government has totally caved in and there seems no prospect of changes in the controversial legislation in the near future,â€ť Archbishop Lawrence J. Saldanha, president of Pakistan Catholic Bishopâ€™s Conference told ucanews.com.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told the National Assembly on Feb. 2 that the government never intended to make any changes to the law and had disbanded the committee reviewing it.
The premier also said Sherry Rehman, who introduced the bill, had decided to withdraw it.
The decision comes in the wake of the recent killing of Punjab governor Salman Taseer who was a vocal critic of the blasphemy laws.
â€śI have no other option but to abide by my partyâ€™s decision. The bill was not aiming to repeal the law, but to better protect our great Prophet Mohammadâ€™s name against injusticesâ€ť, Rahman said yesterday, adding, â€śPolicies to please extremists will be harmful.â€ť
Archbishop Saldanha agreed with the last point.
â€śImproving the law will bring more honor and respect to the Prophet and the country. The poor and Christians have suffered a lot; even students are now afraid to speak, discuss or write about the Prophet,â€ť he said.
The blasphemy laws make an insult to the Qurâ€™an an offense punishable by up to life imprisonment, while giving the death penalty to anyone convicted of insulting Prophet Muhammad. Church leaders have long charged that the blasphemy laws are being abused for personal gain and to harass non-Muslims. NGOs record 1,392 people were killed in blasphemy laws-related violence.
Leaders disagree over blasphemy law
Christians demand repeal of blasphemy laws