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Pakistan to revise blasphemy laws: report

[JURIST] Pakistan will begin to revise its blasphemy laws [AFP report] later this year, a government official told the Agence France-Presse Sunday. Pakistan's Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti [official profile] said he has been speaking to various political parties in Pakistan and that his government is committed to doing away with laws that are discriminatory to minorities. Bhatti made the comments at an interview with the AFP in Washington, DC, where he met with various lawmakers and officials during the National Prayer Breakfast. Bhatti discussed a proposed change in the law that would force judges to investigate blasphemy cases before they are docketed. The proposed law would also make the punishment for a false complaint the same as a primary violation.

Pakistan currently punishes blasphemy against Islam by death, but no one has yet been executed for the offense. The blasphemy laws were introduced in 1986 [AsiaNews report] as a way of protecting Muslim beliefs from insults. Many critics believe the law have been used as a means for discrimination and inciting violence. In August, it is believed that allegations of blasphemy led to violence [AP report] between Muslims and Christians in the Punjab city of Gorja.

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