‘Blasphemy law can be reviewed, not amended’

Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Chairman Maulana Mohammad Khan Sheerani has said that a ‘review’ of the blasphemy law does not mean that it could be changed or amended. 

“It is the CII’s responsibility to review and assess all laws formulated in the country,” he told Dawn, adding, “if the government, through the relevant ministry, forwards any amendment(s) in the blasphemy law, then the Council will certainly look into it”.

‘Blasphemy law can be reviewed, not amended’

The CII is mandated to review all laws in the country and suggest amendments to bring them in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Quran. Maulana Sheerani, who is also a JUI-F MNA, recently raised hopes among activists when he said in an interview that the CII would be willing to review the country’s blasphemy laws. Speaking to Dawn, however, he said that reviewing a law did not mean that the CII would amend it to suit the wishes of a certain segment of society. “Most of the issues are to do with implementation of laws, and as far as the misuse of the blasphemy law is concerned, well, we can see that almost all laws in the country are flouted in one way or the other.” The CII has, in the past, turned down almost all proposals suggesting any changes to the blasphemy laws. In Dec 1993, the CII ruled that to stop the law’s misuse, there was a need to strengthen laws related to false evidence and lodging a false report.

The CII even referred to Section 193 of the Pakistan Penal Code (which deals with provision of false evidence) and called on the government to make the law more stringent to prevent misuse. Similarly, on a suggestion by the Pakistan Law and Justice Commission to make blasphemy a non-cognisable offence, the CII in April 1998 noted that misuse of the blasphemy law was a serious issue, but any changes in the law would be counterproductive, and may even lead to a rise in the instances of the offence. “There is a need to keep the blasphemy law as a cognisable offence, so police have the power to arrest the accused without a warrant. This will deter people from disrespecting the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him),” the CII report of 1997-98 stated.