A one-man tribunal in Pakistan that was set up to investigate the riots in Gojra in August 2009 which killed eight Christians, has recommended a review of the country’s controversial blasphemy law.
The 325-page report, produced by a former Lahore High Court judge, highlights five provisions in the law relating to Islam which should be reviewed, both to prevent misuse and to ensure that it aligns with Pakistan’s constitution, which stipulates the equality of all citizens.
The five provisions – two of which cover the defiling of the Quran and defamation of Muhammad – have been highlighted because they provide a platform where injustice between religions can thrive.
According to The Express Tribune, “The judge also pointed out that the law is often misused for ulterior motives. He referred to the rising number of blasphemy cases registered in the country, though conviction rates remain low and none of the sentences awarded have been fully executed.”
To prevent the blasphemy law from being misused in future, the judge suggested that provision is made for punishing people who make false accusations.
Whilst the recommendations made by the judge are welcome, it is unlikely that they will actually be put into practice. In Pakistan, the Federal Sharia Court is supreme over the country’s constitution, and the blasphemy law is aligned with sharia. This means that any recommendation that appeals to the constitution but conflicts with the sharia court will be rejected.
In addition, the recommendations will only be considered by parliament after “achieving consensus of Mujtahideen of all Muslim schools of thought” and consultation with the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII). Given the hardline stance taken by some within these camps, as well as the wider population’s support for the blasphemy law, it is difficult to see how an agreed consensus on easing the injustices of the law can be reached at this time.
- Give thanks for this judge and his report on the injustice of the blasphemy law.
- Pray that, as consultation over these changes begins with the Muslim Schools around Pakistan and the CII, these groups will have their eyes opened to the injustices of the blasphemy law, and seek to ratify the proposed changes.
- Pray for Pakistan’s Christian communities as they face growing opposition and oppression against them. Pray for their faith to remain strong and for their witness within their families and communities to be a light that reflects the love and grace of Jesus.
- Pray for Pakistan, for many in this nation to come to know Jesus Christ as Lord.
1 Peter 3 vs 12: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.”