PPP, PTI join hands against death to blasphemy accused

* PTI’s Mazari says those who brunt Joseph Colony are roaming freely, while a minority member has been sentenced

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Friday joined hands in the National Assembly to show concern over the award of death sentence to a Christian man over blasphemy charge.
They two parties were of the opinion that it is persecution of the minority community. A district court in Lahore sentenced Sawan Masih to death for committing blasphemy in March last year that was followed by riots in which around 100 houses of the Christian community were brunt by an angry mob. PPP’s Shazia Marri and PTI’s Dr Shireen Mazari wanted to raise this issue when the question-hour started, but the chair did not allow them to speak until other items on the agenda were disposed of.
Finally at the fag end of the session, both got the chance to speak out against the death sentence. When Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi reminded them that this issue is sub judice, they contended that law did not bar them from commenting on a case after a verdict has been issued because after that it becomes public property. “Those who brunt the Joseph Colony are roaming freely. But a member of the Christian community has been sentenced. This is harassment of the minority community,” Dr Shireen Mazari stated.
She deplored that the minority community is being targeted constantly, and sought an explanation from the government as to what it did with the rioters who set fire to the houses of the Christian community members. Taking the floor, Shazia Marri said that they can speak on the issue after the verdict, which she termed as disturbing. “We are really disturbed with this verdict,” Marri stated. Referring to the constitution of the country, she noted that it envisages equality for all citizens of the country, but in real terms nothing of this kind is practiced. 
She called the verdict bad, especially in a month when the Christian community is preparing to celebrate the Easter festival. “We condemn it and want the government to do the same,” Shazia said. On the treasury side, no member of the cabinet came to respond to the opposition’s concerns, but Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, son of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, focused on the rehabilitation measures by the provincial government in Joseph Colony. He also desisted from speaking about the death sentence to Sawan Masih.
Hamza noted that when the tragic incident took place, only a few days were left in the expiry of the tenure of the last government, but Shahbaz Sharif had stated in explicit terms that such incidents could not be tolerated. “The Punjab chief minister not only rebuilt the houses of the victims but also gave those families financial assistance whose children’s dowry was also brunt to ashes,” he stated. Meanwhile, responding to a calling attention notice, Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid said that the matter pertaining to a ban by the Bangladesh Cricket Board on waiving of foreign countries’ flags has been settled after it was lifted on the objection of the International Cricket Council”.
“It was not Pakistan-specific but for all foreign countries,” Zahid said while referring to the calling attention notice which mentioned that the Pakistani flag was barred from being waived. Replying to another calling attention notice, Parliamentary Secretary Finance Rana Afzal told the House that debt-to-GDP ratio was under control and by end of December 2013, and it lowered to 58.6 percent against the budget target of 61.3 percent and inherited figures of 62.7 from previous government.

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