ISLAMABAD - A Senate committee Tuesday proposed anyone falsely accusing someone of blasphemy should be subjected to the same level of punishment as a person convicted of blasphemy.

The Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights drafted proposals after several reports about the alleged misuse of blasphemy law in the country.

“Anyone falsely accusing someone of blasphemy should be subjected to the same punishment as a person convicted of blasphemy,” the committee said in draft recommendations.

Blasphemy laws were introduced by former military dictator Ziaul Haq in 1980s and the maximum punishment under the laws is death. The laws do not provide punishment for false accusation, but it is given in Pakistan Penal Code, which is maximum six-month imprisonment or a fine of Rs 1,000.

The committee also suggested a person interested in getting a blasphemy case registered at a police station should have to bring two witnesses in support of his charges.

Earlier, the Islamabad High Court in October had suggested parliament to enhance punishment for those misusing the blasphemy laws.

The Interior Ministry last month submitted a draft of proposed amendments which recommended that punishments for a false accusation of blasphemy should be the same as the punishment for whom he actually commits blasphemy.

The committee also forwarded three recommendations to Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) for their comments on misuse of blasphemy law.

The Senate committee also proposed simplifying the procedure for filing mercy petitions against death penalties with the President aimed at providing relief on humanitarian grounds.

The committee also asked for forming an executive committee with the representation of all stakeholders, including National Commission for Human Rights, Ministry of Law and Justice and Ministry of Human Rights, to see the complaints before sending those to the President.

The committee which met here with Senator Nasreen Jalil in the chair recommended that a person who forwards the application on behalf of the sentenced person should clearly define the reasons on which the plea has been filed.

An official of National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) briefed the committee that the applications are prepared by the police officials, but the relevant documents, including medical and judicial records to support the request, are not being annexed, which results in rejection of the plea.

The committee was further informed that in case of rejection, law gives the provision that another plea could be filed within seven days on fresh grounds, adding that the causes of refusal are not usually mentioned in the order, which create problems for the applicant.

NCHR member Muhammad Shafiq stated 27 cases of death penalty are still pending. Discussing the Juvenile cases, the committee was informed that under the latest legislation, age of the child should be determined at the time of the filing of a case to avoid any complication at a later stage. The committee was informed that a new law has been passed by the National Assembly, which will soon be tabled in the Senate.

The committee also recommended the cases of around 40 accused apprehended in the Youhanabad church incident in Lahore three years ago should be transferred from anti-terrorism court to other routine courts.

The meeting was attended by senators Farhat Ullah Baber, Mufti Abdus Sattar, Muhammad Mohsin Khan Leghari and Mir Kabir Ahmed Muhammad Shahi, officials of Punjab police, representative of National Commission for Human Rights and officials of ministries of human rights and law and justice.