By BosNewsLife News Center
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife) -- A key human rights group in Pakistan has expressed "grave concern" over government plans to introduce an anti-apostasy law under which those leaving Islam, including Christian coverts, could face the death penalty or life imprisonment.
In a statement monitored by BosNewsLife on Monday, May 14, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said, "It is imperative that the authorities carefully consider any decision in this regard given the tendency to abuse laws in the country."
The HRCP noted that already the controversial "blasphemy law" is "widely used to settle petty, personal disputes" which it claimed inflicted suffering "on many innocent persons through its misuse."
The human rights group urged the government to realize that a "great many other issues of national significance currently face the country, and perhaps deserve greater attention than apostasy" which it stressed "could open up a new and dangerous controversy."
Under the proposed law a man who leaves Islam for another religion can reportedly be sentenced, to death while a woman can face life in prison "until repentance occurs."
It stipulates that the 'offender' must be granted up to 30 days to recant the conversion and return to Islam, according to observers familiar with the law. Even in cases where the person returns to Islam judges can impose two-year sentences as punishment for the original 'crime'.
Under the law proposal, the accused can convert and reconvert up to three times before the death sentence becomes automatically imposed.
In addition properties of the accused are apparently awarded only to Muslim relatives while they also lose custody to any minor in their care and guardianship, including their biological children. "There is as such a danger the new law could ignite further sectarian friction and acrimony," HRCP said.
"It is also a fact that there is apparent lack of unanimity among Islamic scholars on the application of centuries-old concepts in the modern age," the group stressed adding that authorities also "to carefully consider global opinion" and "Pakistanâ€™s obligations to uphold human rights..."
It comes amid growing international and local concern about reports of violence and threats against Pakistanâ€™s Christian minority. (With reports from Pakistan)
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