ISLAMABAD (Web Desk) – Muhammad Khan Sherani, the head of Pakistan’s top religious body, has said he is willing to review blasphemy laws and see whether sentences as harsh as the death penalty were fair.
The chairman of Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) told an international news agency on Thursday that he was willing to reopen the debate on blasphemy laws – that critics say are regularly misused and have led to the deaths of hundreds – to decide if they are Islamic.
“The government of Pakistan should officially, at the government level, refer the law on committing blasphemy to the CII. There is a lot of difference of opinion among the clergy on this issue,” Sherani said in an interview at his office close to the parliament in Islamabad.
In Pakistan, debating blasphemy laws is a highly sensitive subject, and even rumours of blasphemy have sparked rampaging mobs and deadly riots.
“Then the council can seriously consider things and give its recommendation of whether it needs to stay the same or if it needs to be hardened or if it needs to be softened,” Sherani said.
Sherani, who has hit the headlines in recent weeks after his council obstructed a bill to deter child marriages, did not disclose his own position.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws mandate the death penalty, although no sentence has been carried out. Critics say the law is abused in poor, rural areas by enemies falsely accusing others to settle personal scores.
Presenting evidence in court can be considered a new infringement, so judges are reluctant to hear cases.