ISLAMABAD - Following the murder of a Mardan university student, senators, Monday called for reviewing the blasphemy law to punish those who level such false accusations on others.

Taking part in debate on brutal killing of Mashal Khan in Abdul Wali Khan University, the lawmakers in Senate called for stern action against those who took law into their own hands.

Dubbing the trend of mob justice dangerous, they stressed that stern action might be a starting point to prevent such incidents along with waging a war on ideological front to change this mindset. The suggestion of incorporating tolerance as subject in curriculum also came.

Regretting that the incident happened in a seat of learning and at a university named after Khan Abdul Wali Khan, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar stressed the need for reviewing the blasphemy law. He said by stopping the misuse of law, such incidents should be prevented.

“A suggestion from a religious scholar is that if someone levels wrong allegations of blasphemy, he should be dealt with the same punishment of blasphemy,” Babar said.  Quoting the Senate Law Committee of 1992 headed by Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq that amended the law by enhancing the sentence from life imprisonment to death, while implementing the decision of the Federal Shariat Court, Babar said the committee in its report had given some observations and this report could be taken as the starting point.

When the chairman pointed out that the incident was not misuse of law but an act of mob and street “justice”, Babar said there was no deterrence against mob mentality and effective legislation would serve to deter this.

JI Senator Sirajul Haq endorsed Babar, saying that if there were any lapses in the Section 295-C of Pakistan Penal Code regarding punishment of blasphemy, they should be reviewed.

“But the public view is that the state and the government are not ready to implement this law in letter and spirit that lead to such incidents,” he viewed.

Even if somebody has committed a crime, no individual or organisation has the right to punish him, Haq said.

PML-N senator and former general Abdul Qayyum said any flaw in the law should be addressed.

ANP lawmaker Ilyas Bilour said that the decision of the university administration to display a decision on the notice board about the holding of inquiry on blasphemy charges had led to the fuelling of the incident.  He stressed the state as well as the government was not visible in the whole episode.

Winding up the discussion, Minister of State for Interior Baleeghur Rehman said that there was clarity on the issue at the political level.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and heads of political parties have condemned the incident.

There was a need to check intolerance, he said, and added work on a new curriculum was underway in this connection.

He said as many as 22 persons had so far been arrested in the incident, which included six university employees.

Earlier, the lawmakers from both sides welcomed the Senate Chairman, Mian Raza Rabbani, by thumping their desks when he entered the house.

On Friday, the chairman, while invoking his powers had not only adjourned the house abruptly but also refused to perform his official work because of the absence of ministers in the house and some ministries’ lack-lustre response to a number of questions.

After successful negotiations with the government during the last three days, the chairman re-convened the house.

Rabbani said that his decision was a result of the series of the incidents that took place in the past.

“I had said in my first speech as chairman that I would try to uphold the sanctity of the house,” he said.

The chairman reminded that he had earlier suspended the entry of defence minister for the entire sitting for not taking the business of the house seriously but such practice continued after that.

“So things continued piling up and I had been pointing out the lapses,” the chairman said.

He said that it remained a practice that the ministries did not answer a number of questions and the ministers did not remain present in the house to answer the questions. At that day, 11 questions were not answered and four ministers were also absent.

“And this step had neither any relation with me in person nor it was a political drama and it [was] only related to the respect and sanctity of the house and the members,” the chairman added.

The chairman Senate, while taking the house into confidence said that the Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar, in his four meetings with him assured him on behalf of the prime minister to resolve the issues.

Mentioning the points on which the government had agreed, the chair said that the ministers would give top priority to the parliamentary business and the government would take up the issue to the level of secretaries of the ministers about delay or lack of response to the questions.

The finance minister has said that the discussion would also be held on the implementation of the two rulings of the chairman including powers of the speaker to summon joint sitting in case of lapse of bills and the refusal of the National Bank of Pakistan to give information about those clients whom it had given loans.

The government would also hold discussions about the resolution passed by the Senate to enhance its powers.

“In this way, a dialogue has started to resolve the issues,” he said.

The chair also thanked the lawmakers and the leaders of the political parties including Imran Khan, Asfandyar Wali, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Asif Ali Zardari for giving him support on the issue.