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UK charity welcomes calls by Pakistan MPs on blasphemy laws

Parliamentarians want safeguards so abuses are not committed in wake of student's lynching

UK charity welcomes calls by Pakistan MPs on blasphemy laws

Pakistani civil society members and university students shout slogans and wave placards as they protest against the killing of Mashal Khan a journalism student, in Islamabad on April 15. (Photo by Farooq Naeem/AFP)

April 19, 2017

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A charity which campaigns for religious freedom in Pakistan has welcomed calls from the Pakistani parliament to reform the country's controversial blasphemy laws.

The calls came after a university student was killed by a mob on April 14 after being accused of the offence which carries the death penalty for insulting Islam, the Independent Catholic news website reported.

A resolution passed by the National Assembly condemned the lynching and stated that safeguards must be included in the law to stop it being abused in the future.

Pakistan's top court is investigating the murder of the student, Mashal Khan, from Abdul Wali Khan University in northwestern Pakistan, allegedly for his views on Sufi Islam and socialism.

The blasphemy laws are a highly sensitive issue in Pakistan, and vigilantes often take the law into their own hands and kill people accused of blasphemy. The student was brutally beaten and shot to death over allegations he promoted 'blasphemous' content on social media.

According to some reports, as many as 45 people have been detained in connection with the mob attack.

Nasir Saeed Director CLAAS-UK has welcomed the parliament's resolution regarding introducing safeguards to stop the misuse of the blasphemy laws, and to prevent the ongoing killing of innocent people.

"It is great news as in the past whoever tried to speak about changes in the blasphemy laws was shut up and even threatened with death," he said.

"Those who raised their voices, like Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and minority minister Shahbaz Bhatti, were killed in broad daylight, and their killers hailed as heroes."

He said it is encouraging that parliament has agreed to stop the ongoing misuse of the blasphemy laws and hopes it will stick to its word.

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