(AFP) – Dec 30, 2010
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has no intention of amending its controversial blasphemy law, a government minister said Thursday, despite a global outcry over a Christian mother sentenced to death.
Conservative religious groups have called for a national strike, threatening protests and anarchy if the government makes any move to amend the legislation that rights campaigners say encourages Islamist extremism.
A woman lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) sparked fury in lodging a private member's bill seeking to abolish the death penalty for blasphemy. Other liberal voices in the party also object to the law.
"There is no proposal under consideration by the government to amend the blasphemy law," deputy information minister Samsam Bokhari told reporters.
"As far as the party is concerned, the law is not being amended, nor does the government intend to bring any change in it," he added.
Former information minister and PPP lawmaker, Sherry Rehman, in November petitioned parliament to scrap the death penalty from the existing law.
"The government has no concern whatsoever if somebody brings a bill to parliament. We are in a majority and don't back this amendment," Bokhari said.
Pakistan's influential religious parties have urged Pakistanis to strike this Friday in a bid to block any efforts for an amendment, after thousands of Islamists rallied in major cities last week.
Pope Benedict XVI has called for the release of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five sentenced to death in November after being found guilty of defaming the Prophet Mohammed.
Only around three percent of Pakistan's population of 167 million are estimated to be non-Muslim and minorities complain of discrimination.
Pakistan has yet to execute anyone for blasphemy. Most of those convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan have their sentences overturned or commuted on appeal through the courts.
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