Section 295 forbids damaging or defiling a place of worship or a sacred object;
- Section 295-A forbids any outrages to religious feelings.
- Section 295-B forbids desecration of the Quran.
- Section 295-C forbids defamation of the Prophet Mohammed.
- Barring 295-C, the provisions of section 295 stipulate that offences are a consequence of intent rather than tangible acts.
- Desecration of the Quran warrants imprisonment for life.
- Defaming Prophet Mohammed merits death with or without a fine.
- If a charge is brought to the authorities under Section 295-C, the trial must take place in a Court of Session with a Muslim judge presiding.
- Section 298-A prohibits the use of any derogatory remark or representation in respect of Muslim holy personages.
- Section 298-B and 298-C prohibit the Ahmaddiya from behaving as Muslims behave, calling themselves Muslims, proselytizing, or "in any manner whatsoever" outraging the religious feelings of Muslims.
- Violation of any part of Section 298 could render the accused liable to imprisonment for up to three years possibly a fine too.
Article 45 of "The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan" (1973) states:
"the President shall have power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority."
Having read through the text of these acts, I outline the alterations the BPCA would espouse to the existing Blasphemy Laws - These alterations would provide better freedoms and equality to minority groups, however, I reiterate that such a proposal is not a primary objective for the BPCA. Moreover this is a first step in our granular approach of tackling the injustices of the Blasphemy Law. Our primary objective is for it's permanent abrogation;
- Introduce extensions to 295-A to enforce against abuses or outrages to religious feelings of any faith.
- Extend 295-B to prevent desecration or defilement of any holy texts.
- Extend 295-C to prevent the defamation of any holy prophet of any faith.
- Redesign legal practice and definition to restrict arrestable offences to tangible, evidence led breaches.
- Reduce sentences to a maximum of 6 months with rehabilitation and a range of "Restorative Justice" programs i.e. repainting religious buildings to compensate for the hurt and provocation/incitement.
- Remove any form of death sentence.
- Extend existing legislation to afford protection to "Religious Personages"of all faiths.
- Reduce sentencing to just 6 months and a possible fine - with "Restorative Justice" programs.
- Remove the highly contentious discriminatory sections 298-B and 298-C entirely.
A provision should also be added that stipulates before cases of Blasphemy Law are implemented, the decisions should be reviewed by a scrutiny panel, to ensure fairness within the decision making process. The panel should consist of representatives of minority faith groups with no restriction on communication with outside media or the Public. Moreover, the President should personally undertake a sampling exercise on the reviews from the Scrutiny panel and actual cases themselves.
The provisions above are suggestions from the BPCA and may or may not make the final submission to the High Commissioner on the issue of the Blasphemy Law. We would invite the comments of those reading this post....?
A copy of the Blasphemy Law can be read (here)
A copy of Section 45 of the 1973 Constitution can be read (here)