NA passes resolution to amend blasphemy law

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  • Lawmakers denounce lynching of AWKU student Mashal Khan in Mardan
  • PPP asks centre to address power outages, water distribution among federating units

The National Assembly on Tuesday passed a resolution calling for amending the blasphemy law to ensure that strong safeguards may be inserted into the much-debated law to help prevent its misuse.

Debate for amending the law to prevent its misuse has been a matter of dispute among political and religious circles. Under the Pakistan people’s Party (PPP) tenure, a federal minister had been gunned down in Islamabad who had called for amending the law while the then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer had also been killed by his bodyguard for voicing his concerns for an accused of blasphemy law.

However, it seems that following the successful army operations, the dissent is fast replacing scope of a debate over the issue and now all the parliamentary forces have called for the need to review the blasphemy law. The resolution was moved by Minister for Defence Production Rana Tanveer Hussain and all parties supported it.

The resolution, passed to denounce the barbaric and cold-blooded murder of Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old student of the Mass Communications at the Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, also urged the federal and provincial governments to take strict action against the perpetrators and facilitators of the heinous crime, including those making hate speeches in the name of the religion.

On Monday, opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah had urged the government to move a resolution in the National Assembly to give a message to those misusing the blasphemy law at will. “This House unanimously condemns the barbaric and cold-blooded murder of Mashal Khan and resolves to ensure that strong safeguards are inserted into the blasphemy law to prevent its abuse through such atrocities in the future,” according to the resolution.

“This House condemns all those who take the law into their own hands and engage in vigilantism, resulting in loss of innocent human lives,” the resolution reads. Speaking over the resolution, MNA Naeema Kishwar said that it seemed as if all such kind of atrocities were happening under a planned conspiracy.

“Passing resolutions might not change the situation and practical measures needed to stop it. I would ask what steps would be taken after the confessional statements of the alleged murderer. There is a need to check social media too,” she said, and argued why the Cyber Crime Bill was not being implementing properly.

Speaking over the resolution, Dr Arif Alvi said that there was a need to understand that the university students were involved in the barbaric act. He said that it was dilemma that this shameful act had not been done by uneducated youth. MNA Sajid Ahmed said that these kind of incidents were tarnishing the image of country. “Such incidents badly tarnish the image of Pakistan in the world,” he added.

QUORUM ISSUE: The federal government for the fourth successive day faced embarrassment when it failed to gather the required strength in the National Assembly. Once the quorum was pointed out by MNA Shahida Rehmani, the chair had to suspend the house proceedings to allow the treasury MNAs to regroup and ensure the required quorum was present in the House.

Shahida pointed out the quorum when rest of her party’s MNAs staged a walkout from the House in protest to the failing of the government in recovery of Asif Zardari’s aides. The number of the lawmakers had reduced as nearly 50 MNAs were in the House when the count was made. The PPP has been pointing out quorum for the last four days.

The opposition party, before staging a walkout, has only been demanding from the government to ensure presence of their members in the House. While speaking on a point of order, Khurshid Shah expressed concerns over the growing power outages and water shortage in the country.

He said that the political parties have rendered great sacrifices for the restoration of democracy. He said that his party wanted continuation of the democratic system and strengthening of the parliament. He said that the opposition wanted strong institutions but it seems as if the government did not appear to be serious in addressing the problems being faced by the people.

He asked the government to address the problems of loadshedding of the electricity and judicious division of water among the federating units. Later, the PPP lawmakers staged a walk out from the House over the disappearance of PPP activists.

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