ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani says his government will not change the country’s controversial blasphemy laws, adding to concerns of a Christian mother of five sentenced to death for “insulting” Islam.
By BosNewsLife Asia Service
Gilani’s announcement comes amid growing pressure from hard-line religious groups and nearly two weeks after the assassination of a leading liberal politician who led a public campaign to change the legislation.
“We are not going to amend them,” Gilani told a gathering at a scheduled appearance in central Pakistan in comments monitored by BosNewsLife Wednesday, January 19. “Anyone who says there will be changes is lying.”
The news came as a major disappointment for Asia Bibi, who has lived in “constant fear” since the killing of Pakistan’s Punjab province Governor Salman Taseer, said her husband, Ashiq Masih. He told reporters the governor was assassinated after meeting his wife at the Sheikhupura District Jail on January 4.
Last month, a religious Islamic leader, offered a 500,000 rupee ($3,800) reward to anyone who killed Asia Bibi if the court failed to hang her.
A government minister said this month that an initial inquiry into the case of the Christian mother said she had not committed blasphemy but was falsely accused after a quarrel.
Human rights groups suggest that the case has underscored the need to repeal the blasphemy legislation, which they claim discriminates against religious minorities who make up roughly 4 percent of Pakistan’s predominantly Muslim population of roughly 170 million people.
Blasphemy convictions are common. Although the death sentence has never been carried out, some Christians have spend years in jail. Most convictions are thrown out on appeal, but angry mobs have killed Christians and others accused of blasphemy.
In one of the latest known incidents in recent days, a mob attacked two Christian women, a mother and daughter, who were “falsely” accused by a Muslim relative of insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in a domestic dispute, said advocacy group Barnabas Fund.
Both survived, but they were believed to be in critical condition, Wednesday, January 19. Their names were not released, apparently for security reasons.
“The pair were so severely beaten that they lost consciousness, and they were publicly humiliated in a parade around their neighborhood in east Lahore,” said Barnabas Fund.