US focussing on "possible discriminatory applications" of Pak's blasphemy law: Posner

Last Updated: Wed, Jan 19, 2011 07:10 hrs

In the wake of the controversy surrounding Pakistan's blasphemy law, US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights Michael H. Posner has said the United States believes that people should be free to practice their religion, and is focussed on "possible discriminatory applications of the law".

"We are reluctant to prescribe changes and alternatives," the Dawn quoted Posner, as saying, when asked what changes he believed Pakistan needed to make to prevent discriminatory applications of this law.

"But we do believe that people should be free to practice their religion," he added.

The US official said the blasphemy law would be one of the subjects that he would discuss with Pakistani officials, opposition leaders and civil society activists during his visit to Pakistan this week.

"We are very mindful of playing a constructive role in eliminating applications that are discriminatory," said Posner, when asked if he would urge Pakistani leaders to repeal the blasphemy law.

He pointed out that many in Pakistan also were concerned about the "discriminatory applications and potentials for abuse" in implementing this law.

Responding to a question whether he would also discuss the case of Aasia Bibi, a Pakistani-Christian woman sentenced to death on blasphemy charges, Posner said: "We do not want to focus on her case."

"We believe in the due process of law, i.e. a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he maintained, adding that the US was "more broadly focused on possible discriminatory applications of the law".

In response to a question about slain Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, Posner said: "We deplore his murder, and believe that Governor Taseer was a very positive force and a voice for tolerance."

Earlier this month, Taseer was assassinated by Malik Mumtaz Qadri, one of his own elite security force protectors, who opened fire on him because of the governor's support for the release of Asia Bibi. (ANI)