January 24, 2011

Catholic officials in Pakistan expressed disappointment after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani reiterated there would be no amendment to the country's blasphemy law, which makes insulting the Prophet Mohammed or the Quran punishable by life imprisonment or death.

"This is a setback. We have to take it in our stride and move on," Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, president of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference, told Catholic News Service Jan. 12.

Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the Church's National Commission for Justice and Peace, said Gilani has his own "political compulsions" to make such a declaration on the sensitive issue.

The Pakistan Peoples Party, the major party in Gilani's coalition government, has only 125 seats in the 342-member National Assembly and depends on the support of pro-Islamic parties and independent legislators for the survival of the government.