Pak's Punjab province to defend 'victims' of blasphemy law

  • PTI, Islamabad
  • Updated: Feb 10, 2015 12:21 IST

Pakistan's Punjab province government has shortlisted 50 persons - currently facing trial in courts under the controversial blasphemy law - to speedily decide their fate as it believes they have been 'victimised'.

The Punjab prosecution department in association with the home and police departments shortlisted 50 cases from 262 cases in different courts of the province since 2010.

The suspects are languishing in jails and are not being convicted because of lack of evidence, poor evidence, and non-availability of their counsel, the Dawn reported.

A high-powered committee, headed by provincial secretary prosecution Rana Maqbool, sat fourth time a couple of days back since its constitution by the provincial government in January to discuss the modalities to pursue cases on a fast track basis and take all the religious schools of thought into confidence to avoid any backlash following release of the suspects.

The establishment of the committee followed the killing of human rights lawyer Rashid Rehman in Multan in May last year who was pleading the case of a blasphemy accused.

Police sources, associated with the outcome of the meetings, said that the participants in the meeting were of the view the provincial government would "defend" the arrested suspects in courts as blasphemy accused hardly got a lawyer to defend his/her case because of societal pressures and threats.

The sources said the committee as empowered by the government was mulling to get decree from religious scholars of all schools of thought to avoid reaction.

Blasphemy laws were introduced in 1980s by former dictator Zia-ul Haq to appease the religious parties which supported his rule. These laws have been often misused against people of all faiths. So far all efforts to reform them failed due to opposition by extremists groups.

Punjab governor Salman Taseer was killed in 2011 by his police guard for criticizing these laws.

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