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Pakistan to review blasphemy laws, official says

From Nasir Habib, For CNN
Asia Bibi, a Christian, was sentenced to death for blasphemy of Islam -- judicial proceedings could take years.
Asia Bibi, a Christian, was sentenced to death for blasphemy of Islam -- judicial proceedings could take years.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Federal government to form a committee of scholars to revisit the law
  • Religious parties are planning rallies on Christmas Eve
  • A Pakistani court found a 45-year-old woman guilty of defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed
RELATED TOPICS
  • Asia Bibi
  • Pakistan
  • Islam

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan will review blasphemy laws to prevent them from targeting innocent people, a government official said.

The government will form a committee of scholars to revisit the law, said Shahbaz Bhatti, the federal minister for minority affairs.

It will submit its suggestions and procedures, which will be implemented to stop the law's misuse, the minister said Thursday.

"After the formation of the committee we will .... find the way that whether through the legislation or some other procedural way we can stop the blasphemy law," Bhatti said.

On pardoning of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy of Islam, Bhatti said the president will wait for the judicial proceedings.

Bibi's lawyer has said that the proceedings might take years because the case is still in high court and may later go to the Supreme court.

Religious parties are planning protests after Friday prayers. The parties have been upset since the governor of Punjab province helped file a mercy petition with President Asif Ali Zardari's office requesting a pardon for Bibi.

Parties including the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazal ur Rehman (JUI-F) party will hold the rallies on Christmas Eve, said Moulana Amjad Khan, party spokesman.

A Pakistani court in November found the 45-year-old woman guilty of defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed during a 2009 argument with Muslim fellow field workers.

The offense is punishable by death or life imprisonment, according to Pakistan's penal code.

But an investigation by a Pakistani government ministry found the charges stemmed from "religious and personal enmity" and recommended Bibi's release. Zardari has said he would pardon Bibi, but a court has ruled that the president can't act until the sentence is confirmed by a higher court -- a process her lawyer says could take two to three years.

About 2 million Christians live in Pakistan. The Islamic nation has a population of about 170 million, according to government statistics

as religious parties plan Friday rallies to protest possible changes.

 
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