"Azad called me (as I was out of Lahore and in Islamabad) that when he heard of this case and possible attack on Christians he immediatly went to Doop Sari and met both Christians and Muslims," Father Channan said. "He called all Muslim religious and other leaders and had dialogue with them and told them that there is a law if any such thing of committing a blasphemy happens. No one must take this law into his hands. Moreover, it is against the teachings of Islam and against justice as well."
The imam went to the site at 6pm and remained there until 3 the next morning, Father Channan said, crediting his Muslim friend for preventing an attack on Christian homes and churches. He also met with government officials urging them to punish anyone who misuses the blasphemy laws for personal reasons.
"I take it as a proper move and step of Mualana Azad to stop misuse of these laws," said Father Channan. "I do admire his courage for speaking so loudly against such kind of attitude to fanatic Muslims to attack Christians on mere accusation. There are many other Muslim Ulama who are of the same thinking as Maulana Azad."
Among the changes being introduced, the new law would make it necessary to show bad faith and intent behind an act of blasphemy.
Father Saleh Diego, president of the "Justice and Peace" Commission and chancellor of the Archdiocese of Karachi, told Fides news agency that the Church has been asking for years for mechanisms to prevent abuse of the laws. "We lived and dealt with serious cases in which this law was exploited. It is a matter of justice, as there are many innocent people in prison. Avoiding abuse would be a benefit to society as a whole, for the citizens of all religions, Muslims and Christians, accused unjustly," the priest said.
He added that "the pressures of the international community can be helpful."
In a recent report, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan pointed out that abuse of the blasphemy law continues to cause oppression and harassment of innocent citizens. Fourteen Pakistanis are on death row, including Asia Bibi, while another 19 are serving a life sentence on charges of committing blasphemy. The number of cases registered in the last 25 years (over 1000) suggests that the law has been widely abused, often for personal vendettas. According to a report by the Center for Research and Studies on Security, based in Islamabad, since 1990, 52 people accused of blasphemy have been victims of extrajudicial executions.
Christian human rights lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill said local Christians are terrified and scared. "It has become difficult for Christians to live with Muslims, especially when the blasphemy law is abused," he said. "We ask the international community to help bring its abolition in Pakistan."
John Burger is news editor for Aleteia’s English edition.