LAHORE - The government is set to reform the blood money (Diyat) laws that provide for the murderers to escape death punishment if they are pardoned by the victims’ heirs, said Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Legal Affairs Ashtar Ausaf Ali yesterday.

Ashtar said the Diyat laws were being reformed to confine murderers in jail from seven to 10 years even if they are pardoned by legal heirs of the victims against diyat. Murder is an offence against the state and that stays on even if the legal heirs pardon the convicts against blood money , he added.

To a question whether amendment will stay in lines with the Islamic injunctions, Ashtar said the basic law is not being changed. Forgiving murders against blood money is permissible under the Islamic law and that is not being altered. He said the need to reform the law has surfaced in view of the fact that rich and powerful people tend to avoid death conviction by dint of their money and influence. The state wants to discourage the rich from taking lives of others with the force of riches and power.

He said a proposal is under consideration to improve the law to protect others from those who take lives and get released on death conviction without suffering any punishment. “Forgiveness lies with God. To safeguard the rights of a person is the obligation of the state. Under the proposed reforms, pardon can only be granted if a murderer has been convicted to death,” Ashtar said. In that case, death will be commuted to jail from seven to 10 years, he added. The Qisas (retribution) and Diyat (blood money) law was famously invoked in the case of Raymond Allen Davis, a CIA contractor who shot two men dead in Lahore in 2011.

The incident sparked a diplomatic furor which was only resolved when Davis was pardoned in return for Rs 250 million settlement with the men’s families.

The 2012 killing of 20-year-old Karachi student Shahzeb Khan by two young men from powerful political families also drew national outrage after Shahzeb’s parents pardoned the killers, reportedly due to threats.

The proposed changes are likely to be tabled in the parliament next month and have also received the blessing of prominent Islamic scholars, Ali added. He said if the proposed changes are made a law, they would carry prospective effect and not the retrospective.