Pakistani Christians to Protest on Christmas Against Blasphemy Law

Christians in Pakistan plan to rally on Christmas Day for the abolishment of the highly debated blasphemy law.

Many Christians have been arrested and imprisoned under the controversial law in order to settle personal disputes, but it is Christian mother Asia Bibi's case that has drawn international attention from world leaders and numerous human rights groups.

Leaders from the All Christian Parties Conference will march from the Lahore Press Club to the Punjab Assembly Building, calling for a revision of legislation that they argue discriminates against the country's minority groups.

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Several Islamic parties, including the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and JUI-F, have already declared intentions of nationwide strikes and rallies if a private bill in the national assembly of Pakistan, is discussed.

The bill, submitted by Pakistan Peoples Party member Sherry Rehman, calls for an end to the death penalty for blasphemy.

The intense debate deepened earlier this week with the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), Pakistan's top constitutional advisory body on Islamic issues, recommended several amendments to the law.

"The government should not allow anyone to misuse the blasphemy law and it should take all appropriate measures whether administrative, procedural or legislative to stop incidents of mishandling the blasphemy Law," wrote the CII in its recommendations after examining the widespread criticism.

However, the council remains opposed to the repeal of the law and recommends that capital punishment should be retained for offenders. Its primary focus is preventing abuse of the law in order to target individuals, regardless of religious beliefs.

Last month, Bibi became the first woman in Pakistan to be sentenced to death by hanging for allegedly speaking ill of Muslim Prophet Muhammad. She was accused of blasphemy by fellow field workers but she has denied it.

She said the false accusation stems from a petty argument she had with her Muslim co-workers after they refused to drink water that she fetched for them. They complained that the water container was touched by a Christian. Upset by their comments, Bibi argued with them but afterwards thought nothing of the incident. However, a few days later dozens of Muslims dragged her away. She was accused of blasphemy and has since been imprisoned and sentenced to death.

Bibi's attorneys filed an appeal. The Lahore High Court has not set a date for her appeals case and it has barred President Asif Ali Zadari from pardoning her before the hearing.

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