BANGALORE, India (RNS/ENInews) Pakistani churches say they’re frustrated by the government’s refusal to amend a controversial blasphemy law that makes it a capital crime to insult Islam or the Prophet Muhammad.
Human rights groups have urged for the law to be repealed or amended to protect the rights of minority faiths in a nation that is overwhelmingly Muslim and increasingly volatile.
A Pakistani governor who advocated for reforming the “black law” was killed by his security guard on Jan. 4, prompting large-scale demonstrations on behalf of the accused killer by Muslims who want the law preserved.
Pakistani officials have brushed off calls from outsiders for the law’s repeal. On Tuesday (Jan. 11), Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told reporters that “it is our law and we will work according to our law.”
“We are disappointed by the stand taken by the Prime Minister,” said Joseph Francis, director of the Center for Legal Aid Assistance & Settlement, which has defended dozens of Christians and Muslims charged under the law.
“With the protests growing from both sides, we were expecting the government to take a strong stand on this,” Francis said. “Unfortunately, the government response has been negative.”
The National Council of Churches in Pakistan also expressed displeasure with Gilani, though general secretary Victor Azariah said he was not surprised by the reaction.
The governing Pakistan People’s Party has just 125 seats in the 342-member National Assembly, and must rely on independents and Islamic parties that support the blasphemy law to keep its fragile governing coalition intact.
“When the government survival itself is dependent on (political) parties that support the blasphemy law, what can we expect from the government?” Azariah said.