UN rights chief urges Pakistan to reform blasphemy law

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UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Wednesday urged Pakistan's government to support reforms of Islamic blasphemy laws as she condemned the killing of a Catholic Pakistani minister.

Gunmen shot dead minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti in broad daylight on Wednesday, claiming a second victim among high profile opponents of an Islamic blasphemy law.

"I urge the government of Pakistan to honour the courageous stand of Mr Bhatti and Mr Taseer by supporting their position on the blasphemy laws," the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement.

"To do otherwise will simply encourage similar acts of violence and lawlessness as a means of scaring governments off from making much needed human rights reforms," she added in a statement.

"Murderers should not be rewarded by getting what they want, in terms of government policy."

She called on the government to declare a moratorium on application of the blasphemy laws and to commission a comprehensive review by independent and impartial experts, the statement said.

Bhatti, a member of Pakistan's small Christian community, had been a vocal opponent of the controversial blasphemy law along with the liberal late governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer.

Taseer, a senior figure in the main ruling Pakistan People's Party, was shot dead on January 4 by one of his own police bodyguards.

Pillay urged all Pakistanis to condemn the latest killing and said she was appalled that a number of political and religious leaders, legal professionals and media commentators in Pakistan condoned Taseer's assassination.

© 2011 AFP

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