Clerics suggest amendment to blasphemy laws
19 September, 2013
ISLAMABAD: Top religious clerics Wednesday suggested amendments to the country's blasphemy laws, proposing the death penalty for people convicted of making false accusations.
The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) suggested the government should bring in the death penalty for people convicted of making false accusations of blasphemy.
"All the religious scholars agreed to put an end to the misuse of blasphemy laws," Allama Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi told AFP. "Keeping in view the suggestions of human rights activists and civil society members, the Council of Islamic Ideology has decided to fix the same penalty for the person who falsely accuses of blasphemy as the accused," he added.
Ashrafi 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," he added. The council also reversed an earlier decision about the use of DNA as evidence in rape cases, which it had refused to accept. "The council has now left the matter of DNA evidence for the courts," Ashrafi said.
The council had been under pressure after severe criticism over its controversial ruling in May this year which discarded DNA as primary evidence in rape cases. The CII began deliberations on Wednesday to review its earlier recommendations, which said DNA could be used in rape cases only when four witnesses testified to the crime but the accused denied charges. In other words, DNA could be used only to supplement primary evidence of four witnesses.
The CII recommendations drew flak from civil society and legal circles who termed the recommendations against the law. In an apparent damage control exercise, the CII convened on Wednesday to deliberate on the issue.
"CII aims to provide the maximum facilitation to avail this opportunity of using DNA testing as primary evidence in rape cases. But the only hurdle in the way of giving justice to people is lack of speedy trials and absence of strict implementation of laws," said Ashrafi.