ISLAMABAD: A Senate Special Committee on Human Rights on Tuesday recommended that anyone falsely accusing someone of blasphemy should be subjected to the same level of punishment as a person who has been convicted of blasphemy.
The committee also recommended that anyone looking to register a blasphemy case at a police station will have to bring witnesses in support of their allegation.
Senator Farhatullah Babar clarified during the meeting that no changes are being made to the blasphemy law; they just want to stop people from misusing it. It was decided in the committee that recommendations will be forwarded to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s Mufti Abdul Sattar opposed the recommendations, terming them “an attempt to sabotage the blasphemy law”. To which the legislator asked if that’s so, are there “no other laws in the country that are being misused?”
The false accuser, under the existing law, can only face proceedings under Section 182 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), which carries a punishment of six months or a fine up to Rs1, 000 only.
Earlier, the Interior Ministry submitted in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) a draft of proposed amendments to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 which seek to equate punishments for a false accusation of blasphemy to the punishment for actually committing blasphemy.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the IHC had asked for the draft in connection with an order he had passed in a case pertaining to the circulation of sacrilegious content on social media.
The new draft was presented after the court had rejected an earlier draft while pointing out multiple shortcomings in it, including the omission of a punishment for those who falsely accuse others of blasphemy.
On being shown the new draft, Justice Siddiqui remarked that the law finally seemed to hold false accusers of blasphemy accountable, adding that it was “once again the courts which had to get it done”.