Committee for reviewing blasphemy law – Clerics refuse to work under Bhatti’s chairmanship


ISLAMABAD: The Ministry for Minorities Affairs has initiated work on the formation of a broad-based special committee to review the blasphemy law, however, Pakistan Today learnt on Saturday that the body was likely to fail in accomplishing the task.
The committee, which is being formed on the directions of President Asif Ali Zardari, is likely to fail in making any breakthrough as, according to a source in the ministry, some of the prominent religious leaders have refused to work under the chairmanship of Minorities Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti.
The president had asked Bhatti to propose names of scholars and experts for the committee to recommend reformed procedures to effectively prevent misuse of the blasphemy law.
Challenging the president’s authority, Senator Professor Khurshid Ahmed of the Jamaat-e-Islami said after the passage of the 18th Amendment, the president could not pass such executive orders, adding that it was the job of the prime minister, his cabinet and the Law Ministry. “The minister for minorities affairs should have raised the issue in the cabinet instead of politicising it,” he added.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Bhatti said the process to form the committee was underway. “The committee will comprise well-known, non-controversial clerics, lawyers, human rights activists, representatives of minorities, scholars and parliamentarians from various political parties,” he said. The minister said the committee would be “a beautiful blend of the representatives of all sections of society and will present a solution to the problem”.
“We wish the controversy should be resolved through consensus legislation as staging protest demonstrations is not a solution,” he said. Bhatti said the committee would be formed within next two weeks. “The final approval of the committee’s composition will be given by the president.”
Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl said his party would not accept any committee formed to reform the existing blasphemy law. Allama Zubair Ahmed Zaheer, central vice president of the Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith said his party did not want the law to be misused.
“We will support parliament if it amends the law to prevent its abuse, but we will oppose the law’s complete abolition,” he added.