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Move at CII to amend blasphemy law

Move at CII to amend blasphemy law


ISLAMABAD: After hours of intense discussion, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) approved on Wednesday the draft of a resolution recommending to the government to amend the blasphemy law proposing death penalty for people levelling false allegations.

The resolution also proposed that DNA tests results be used as primary evidence in rape cases

Though the council would give its final ruling on the two issues on Thursday (today) after another round of discussions, sources said, adding that that the members had unanimously approved the draft recommendations over the issues.

The draft empowers a judge hearing a rape case to admit the results of DNA tests depending on the situation and conditions.

“The CII aims to provide maximum facilitation to use DNA test results as primary evidence in rape cases,” said Allama Tahir Ashrafi, head of the Pakistan Ulema Council.

But his suggestion was opposed by some senior members and officials of the council who said the proposal did not deserve discussion.

However, the situation changed when Allama Amin Shaheedi of the Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen said that DNA could be used as a vital tool in identifying rapists.

The CII has so far been against showing any flexibility regarding amendments to Hudood and blasphemy laws despite proofs of their misuse and the change in the attitude came after a heated debate and arguments among the members.

“This is because of the composition of the council. A vast majority of its constituents are hardliners,” a member of the council said. He had been snubbed by CII Chairman Mohammad Khan Sherani when he objected to a controversial decision made by the council in May this year, he added.

In a meeting on May 29, the CCI had issued a ruling which discarded the use of DNA results as primary evidence in rape cases and stated that it could only be used as a secondary evidence.

“The system to determine the culprit is clearly written in Sharia and DNA test can be used only after the accused does not accept the evidences of four witnesses,” Maulana Sherani had said.

The change in the CII’s overall attitude was because of induction of Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, Allama Amin Shaheedi, Mufti Ibrahim, a Barelvi scholar from Sindh, and Allama Yousuf Awan, head of PPP’s Ulema wing.

The major part of resolution approved by the CII was the recommendation to amend the blasphemy laws.

The meeting accepted a proposal to award death penalty to people convicted of making false accusations.

There was a heated debate on the proposal between the old members and the pro-reform members.

The reformists said that amendments were required to end misuse of the law which had been severely criticised by various segments of the society.

“We all have agreed to put an end to the misuse of blasphemy laws. I am thankful to all those who have laid the foundation for amendments” Maulana Ashrafi told Dawn.

Dawn.com reported that the CII had earlier recommended that DNA tests results could be used only to supplement primary evidence of four witnesses.

The CII recommendations were criticised by civil society and legal circles who said the recommendations were against the law.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) criticised the council for undermining the DNA evidence. In its latest statement, the HRCP said that there had been a sharp rise in the incidents of rape and only in Lahore 113 cases of rape, 32 of them gang rape, had been reported.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in the country, and insulting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) can be punished by death under the penal code, adds AFP. Even unproven allegations can provoke a violent public response and critics say the law is often used to settle personal scores.

“Keeping in view the suggestions of human rights activists and civil society members, the council has decided to fix the same (death) penalty for the person who falsely accuses someone of committing blasphemy,” Allama Ashrafi said.

He said the proposed amendment would ensure that “nobody dares to use religion to settle personal scores…

The amendment will also silence critics of the blasphemy laws”.

In 2011, Punjab governor Salman Taseer and minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated for demanding that the blasphemy law be reformed.


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