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“Citizens for Democracy” alliance to amend the blasphemy laws in Pakistan

28 December 2010

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The Express Tribune, 27 December 2010

Karachi: Civil society and human rights organisations, trade union activists and lawyers formed the “Citizens for Democracy” alliance on Sunday to launch a campaign to amend the blasphemy laws. This was decided at a meeting of 28 different organisations held at the office of Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) that recently had to defend a doctor from Hyderabad who had been falsely accused.

The participants at the meeting extended their full support on the bill on blasphemy law tabled by PPP MNA Sherry Rehman and decided to have meetings with members of parliamentary committee on law and parliamentarian affairs to expedite the process.

The participants demanded the proper implementation of the 1973 Constitution that protects minorities and guarantees equal rights to every citizen.

Among other organisations, PMA, Labour Party, Awami Party, Joint Action Committee (alliance of different NOGs), Aurat Foundation, Karachi Union of Journalists, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Joint Action Committee for Human Rights, and National Justice and Peace Commission were present.

Journalist Beena Sarwar and Noman Qadri of the People Resistance Group were nominated as focal persons of the alliance who will coordinate different networks, organisations and likeminded groups in an effort to launch the campaign.

The participants also decided that a seminar will be held in Karachi in January in which lawyers, religious leaders, political parties, ex-judges and people from labour unions will be invited to discuss blasphemy laws.

“Blasphemy cases are registered under section 295-C in which it is clearly mentioned that no junior police official can lodge the case. So, during the registration of an FIR, it must be ensured that unfairness is not meted out to anyone,” a participant said. “Most of the blasphemy cases registered against minorities are not genuine, therefore there should be a effective clause with same charges against the complainant, so that no one will dare to register false cases in future” another participant suggested.