Pakistan's Blasphemy Laws Just Became Even Harsher

The National Assembly of Pakistan has increased the punishment for disrespecting “sacred personalities.”

On January 17th, The National Assembly unanimously passed the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill to increase punishment for the disrespect of Ahl-e-Bait, Khulfa-e-Rashideen, Sahaba-e-Kiram, and Ummahatul Momineen.

Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali of the Jamaat-e-Islami pioneered the bill. The punishment for disrespecting a member of the parliament is five years; however, the penalty for insulting any pious personalities of Islam is only three years, said Chitrali while presenting the bill.

Deputy Speaker Zahid Durrani met with the lower house of the parliament and expressed his dissatisfaction with several ministers not being present during the session. Durrani also requested the members of the National Assembly (MNAs) to file their statements of assets with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The house, with complete agreement, passed the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill. Disparaging the companion of the Holy Prophet and other pious personalities disrupts the country, promotes terrorism, and hurts the sentiment of people all around the globe, as stated in the bill's objectives.

The punishment for an individual who insulted the Islamic Prophet's wives, family, and companions is a minimum of three years in prison and a nominal fine, as written in Section 298-A in the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

The amendment bill increased the minimum punishment for disrespecting pious personalities from three to 10 years of imprisonment and can also result in a fine of Rs. 1 Million. In some cases where grave disrespect is shown, the punishment would then be life imprisonment, said Chitrali.

"The punishment for insulting a member of parliament is five years, while the punishment for insulting the sacred personalities is three years. This is an insult in itself," Chitrali added. "May this bill be a cause of our salvation, and may Allah grant our rulers the ability to implement the bill in letter and spirit."

On Private Members Day, Amendments to many other bills were also presented. The following bills are; the COMSATS University (Amendment) Bill, Equal Scales of Salary and Allowances Bill and Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils (Amendment) Bill, Federal Urdu University of Arts, Sciences and Technology (Amendment) Bill, Institute of Space Technology (Amendment) Bill, National Skills University (Amendment) Bill and the Pakistan Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

While speaking on a bill, Education Minister Rana Tanveer Hussain said that members were given sponsored bills. "We will have to sit together and introduce reforms to improve our education system," said Hussain. "The government is focused on training the teachers to ensure quality education."

Shazia Marri, The Poverty Alleviation Minister, said the ECP suspended the membership of several ministers as they still need to submit their returns.

Noting that 136 MNAs still need to file their returns with the ECP, Durrani urged the members to submit their returns with the ECP to be able to join the assembly proceedings. The session was later dismissed until January 20.

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