Pakistan's military government has promised to make several concessions to ease restrictions on the nation's minority Christian community of about 3 million.The promises have been welcomed by church officials as further signs that last October's military coup d'etat has been beneficial for Christians and other minority faith communities in Pakistan, even though the military government led by Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf has no democratic basis. The government of Prime Minister Nawa Sharif which was overthrown by General Musharraf on October 12 was deeply unpopular. However, churches in Pakistan are also calling for a swift return to democratic rule.Addressing a national seminar on "Human Dignity" in Islamabad on Good Friday, April 21, General Musharraf announced major changes to the application of Pakistan's blasphemy law, which is part of the nation's Shari'a (Islamic) law code and widely feared by Christians and members of other minority faiths.Declaring that the government was determined to stop the "misuse" of the blasphemy law (which imposes the death penalty for sacrilege against Islam), General Musharraf said that blasphemy cases could no longer be registered merely by a complaint, but only after "preliminary investigation" by a deputy commissioner of police and a thorough scrutiny of the charge.The Penal Code's section 295C, which dates from 1986, reads: "Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Mohammed—Peace be upon him—shall be punished with death and shall also be liable to a fine."Legal experts say the insertion of section 295C completely transformed the ...1
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