Pakistan's top clerics have struck down a proposal for awarding death sentence to people making false accusations under the controversial blasphemy law.
A meeting of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) witnessed serious ideological differences between the hardliners and the moderates over the proposal to award the same punishment to a false accuser as to an accused.
After having failed to reach a consensus, CII Chairman Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani decided to form a two-member committee, comprising retired Justice Mushtaq Ahmed Memon and retired Justice Nazir Akhtar, to look into the matter and submit their findings, The Dawn reported.
The situation turned ugly when Maulana Tahir Ashrafi criticised the misuse of the blasphemy law.
He was of the opinion that because of this misuse the Muslims were getting a bad name and Ulema in Pakistan were being maligned, it said.
Ashrafi said those making a false accusation needed to face death penalty because the words attributed to the accused were actually uttered by the accuser.
He even went on to allege that false cases provided certain 'maulvis' an opportunity to exploit the situation in different ways.
The statement annoyed some members who went on to call for Maulana Ashrafi's resignation as member of the CII.
The members opposed to amendments to the blasphemy law maintained that they did not want to discourage people from coming forward and lodge complaints against blasphemers.
They said there was already a law section 194 of the PPC which envisaged punishments for lodging a false FIR.
The CII chairman said an official announcement would be made on Monday after the committee submitted its findings on the matter.
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in Pakistan, where 97 per cent of the population are Muslim.
Critics say the law is often used to settle personal scores and had suggested that it be repealed.
The council also rejected the Women Protection Bill, 2006, saying it was contrary to the spirit of Quran and Sharia.
The Bill is an attempt to amend the heavily criticized Hudood Ordinance laws which govern the punishment for rape and adultery in Pakistan.