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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws: “Snare for Hindus, Jews, Christians, Shias, And Other Pakistani Minorities “

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“Hindu teacher sentenced to life imprisonment in Pakistan”.

“A brutal mob killed a Sri Lankan man in Punjab province of Pakistan”.

“A mob has killed a man for allegedly burning pages of the Quran in central Pakistan”

These have become a systematic humdrum for the World’s media about the most rouge nation Pakistan.

Does anyone conjecture the reason behind all these headlines? If not, let me tell you, the reason is One and Only One – “Pakistan Blasphemy Laws”.

Let me cite down some of the horrendous blasphemy cases of the past few decades in which innocent minorities of Hindus, Christian, and Shias have been terroristically preyed on by Islamic Jihadis of the “Terror State Pakistan“.

2022

  • On 12th February, the Jihadi mob mercifully killed a man in central Pakistan. Police said that he was killed for allegedly burning pages of the Koran. The case has been filed under Blasphemy-related violence in the country.

Although more than 80 people have been arrested in connection with the killing in the district of Khanewal in Punjab province[1].

But the question is who was killed was in the police custody before a crowd snatched him.

Reports said that no actions will be taken against the crowd as the case is filed under Blasphemy Law.

  • On 8th February, a Hindu teacher was sentenced to life imprisonment by a local court over charges of blasphemy in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province[2].

A Hindu teacher, identified as Nautan Lal, was also fined Pakistani ₹50,000 by Additional Sessions Judge Murtaza Solangi in Ghotki in Sindh.

Lal who belongs to a minority was arrested in September 2019 after a video went viral on social media in which an intermediate student of the public school alleged that the Hindu teacher had committed blasphemy against the Prophet.

As the news spread, a protest erupted in the town and a violent mob attacked the Sacho Satram Dham Temple and damaged its idols in Ghotki.

The caretaker of the Sacho Satram temple, Jay Kumar, later said that around 50 masked men had attacked the temple.

2021

  • On 3rd December, in the Terror Heaven Pakistan, a Sri-Lanka man named Priyantha Diyawadanage, 48, a factory manager in the city of Sialkot, Punjab, was beaten to death and his body set alight.

A Sri Lankan man was accused of blasphemy in Pakistan before he was murdered. This cold-blooded murder has sparked protests in Sri Lanka and condemnation from the rest of the world.

The victim’s family in Sri Lanka told the BBC that they are in despair.

His wife, Nilushi Dissanayaka, called on both Pakistan and Sri Lanka’s governments to conduct a full investigation to “bring justice to my husband and my two children”.

“I saw that he was being attacked on the internet… it was so inhumane,” his distraught wife said[3].

But a colleague, who rushed to the site in a bid to save him, told the Associated Press of Pakistan that Mr. Diyawadanage had only removed the posters as the building was about to be cleaned.

The violence had begun after rumors spread that Mr. Diyawadanage had allegedly committed a blasphemous action, by tearing down posters with the name of the Prophet Muhammad, local police chiefs said.
  • On 28th November, a police station in Mandani, Charsadda District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was burned down by a mob of thousands who demanded that the police hand over a blasphemy suspect to them.

Mob sets Charsadda police station on fire after officials refuse to hand over alleged blasphemy suspect. They also vandalized the vehicles parked in the police station, according to Law Minister Fazal Shakoor Khan.

Mandani circle DSP Ishaq told Dawn that “The person who had allegedly torched the Holy Quran was apparently mentally deranged”.

Apparently, the accused is mentally unstable and he cannot speak.

  • On 25th November, Four Muslim men were arrested for arguing with an imam while requesting to allow a funeral announcement from the village mosque. They have been charged under blasphemy law as the prayer leader who leveled allegations against the family had reportedly said to the woman that Islam does not allow announcements for funerals of religious minorities i.e., Christian[4].
  • In September, it was just another normal day in “Terror Heaven Country”, Pakistan which can’t get over its blasphemy laws, with yet another local court delivering a death sentence. This time to a school principal whose, “abnormality”, the court said, fell short of “legal insanity”.  The court also fined her PKR 50,000[5].

The charge against the school principal, Salma Tanvir, was that she used derogatory words against Prophet Mohammad and denied the finality of the prophethood, claiming to be the Prophet of Islam in pamphlets she distributed.

Pakistan Intelligence Agency, ISI controlled media, however, conveniently played down the accused’s status as the owner and head of a private school and nothing about Blasphemy.

2020

  • In June, an assistant professor of the Shah Abdul Latif University, Sajid Soomro, was arrested under contested blasphemy charges. Allegedly, he had claimed that Islam is a male-dominated religion

Sajid has written things critical of seminaries, religious beliefs, the concept of heaven, and polygamy. He has also criticized Pakistan. Therefore, he has been registered under the relevant sections of the law,” Hakim Ali Kalhoro, a local Sindh police officer, told DW.

However, a number of human rights activists, civil society organizations, and politicians have expressed grave concern over the blasphemy registration against Soomro under Pakistan’s broad and controversial blasphemy laws[6].

  • In July, Qamar Riaz, a local leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in Narowal, in Pakistan’s Punjab province filed a complaint in a local police station following remarks by the former foreign minister and opposition leader Khawaja Asif about religion in the National Assembly.
“He stated none of the world’s religions world takes precedence over another. Islam and all religions are equal. His words are totally against the Quran and Sunnah [life of the Prophet Muhammad] and are therefore an insult to Islam,” Riaz said[7].

“As per the spirit of Shariah, this is a serious crime. The whole Islamic world has been insulted”[8].

Asif’s remarks were aimed at a group of lawmakers in the national parliament for opposing the construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad.

Asif had also referred to a namaz (a prayer) he offered during Eid at a church in New York City and lamented how even the thought of such a thing happening in Pakistan was implausible.  

Christian social media users termed this reference as “a beautiful message”.

  • In August, in one month only at least 42 cases pertaining to blasphemy were registered across Pakistan in a single month. Most of those accused of blasphemy belonged to the Shia community and were booked under sections 295-A and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code for allegedly insulting the companions of Muhammad[9].
  • On 9th August unidentified gunmen shot dead a Shia caretaker of an imambargah (Shia place of worship) Syed Mukhtar Hussain Shah (52) in Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Police said unknown armed assailants opened fire on Syed Mukhtar Hussain Shah (52) when he was returning home from the market. Shah was the caretaker of imambargah Chah Roshan Shah Malana. 
  • On 14th August, Head Constable Syed Mohammad Ali Rizvi was shot dead by unidentified assailants in the Karimabad area of Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh. He was the brother-in-law of noted Shia Noha Khwan Sajid Jaffery[10]

2019

Junaid Hafeez, formerly a lecturer at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, Punjab, was sentenced to death for blasphemy. He was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad on Facebook. Hafeez’s first attorney, Rashid Rehman, was murdered in his office in 2014 after agreeing to represent him. The verdict prompted an outcry from human rights groups; Amnesty International called it a “‘vile and gross miscarriage of justice”.

2017

  • In March, Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif supported a crackdown on blasphemous material posted on social media and described blasphemy as an “unpardonable offense“. Shortly after, Pakistani blogger Ayaz Nizami, founder of realisticapproach.org, an Urdu website about atheism, and Vice President of Atheist & Agnostic Alliance Pakistan, was detained under the charges of blasphemy and could face the death penalty
  • In April, Mashal Khan, a Pakistani student at the Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, was killed by an angry mob on the premises of the university over allegations of posting blasphemous content online.
  • In July, Faisal Mahmood was charged with blasphemy law U/S 295C by the court of magistrate special judicial Gujarat and could be sentenced to death.
  • In December, a 58-year-old man accused of blasphemy was freed after spending over nine years in jail. Bahawalnagar District court and Lahore High Court sentenced the man to life imprisonment which was overruled by the Supreme Court of Pakistan as the evidence used was not in accordance with the Evidence Act.

2016

  • In November, a Facebook campaign was launched by the followers of Khadim Hussain Rizvi, against Malik Shahrukh, a Ph.D. researcher who was previously associated with an Islamabad-based diplomatic news publication. Malik was accused of calling the Quran “an ordinary book, produced by Mohammad for economic and political purposes.”
A video of the local Imam of Sargodha, in which he incited people during the Friday sermon to kill Malik, went viral. Several applications were made to the authorities against Malik, demanding that he be sentenced to death. Authorities could not arrest Malik because he was not in Pakistan at the time. Sources claim that Malik is being framed for criticizing Tahreek-e-Labbaik and its chief.

In the first of its kind case, a 30-year-old Shiite Taimoor Raza was sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court, for posting blasphemous content on Facebook. He was booked in 2016 after he engaged in sectarian debate with a counter-terrorism official on Facebook

2014

  • In January Muhammad Asghar, a 70-year-old British man from Edinburgh was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death by a court in Rawalpindi. Asghar had initially been arrested in 2010 after sending letters in which he declared himself a prophet, and had lived in Pakistan for several years prior to his arrest and trial. Javed Gul, a government prosecutor, disclosed to Agence France Presse that, “Asghar claimed to be a prophet even inside the court. He confessed it in front of the judge.” Asghar’s lawyers had argued during the trial that he should be granted leniency on account of a history of mental illness, but a medical panel later rejected this argument after reviewing his case.

2013

  • In September, a Lahore-based woman Salma Fatima was arrested by police after she distributed pamphlets declaring herself a prophet.

2012

  • in August, Rimsha Masih (some reports use the name “Rifta” or “Riftah“) is a Pakistani child who was arrested in Islamabad by Pakistani police and who could face the death penalty for blasphemy for allegedly desecrating pages of the Quran (or a book containing verses from the Quran) by burning She is a member of Pakistan’s Christian minority.
  • In October, teacher Arfa Iftikhar was forced into hiding after a furious mob stormed Farooqi Girls High School in Lahore over a piece of homework she set that allegedly contained derogatory references to the Muslim prophet Mohammad.

2011

  • On 2nd March,  Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs (a Roman Catholic member of the National Assembly), was killed by gunmen in Islamabad as he was traveling to work, a few weeks after he had vowed to defy death threats over his efforts to reform Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
  • In July, Muhammad Ajmal escaped the raid of a local religious group in Rawalpindi, Punjab, who later announced that anti-Islamic material and blasphemous material against the prophet of Islam was found in his apartment, both printed and on his laptop. Ajmal disappeared in July 2011.
  • On 12th December, a teacher, Shahid Nadeem, in the missionary school of Faisalabad, Punjab, was accused by Qari Muhammad Afzal (a member of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned organization) who registered an FIR on 28 December 2011 at the local police station claiming that the culprit had deliberately torn the pages of Quran and burned them.

2010

  • In July, a trader in Faisalabad complained that one of his employees had been handed a pamphlet that contained disrespectful remarks about Muhammad. According to the police, the pamphlet appeared to have the signatures and addresses of Pastor Rashid Emmanuel and his brother Sajid, who were Christians.

The brothers were shot and killed while being escorted by the police from a district court. Both had denied the charge of blasphemy. Allama Ahmed Mian Hammadi, a Pakistani Muslim cleric, claimed that Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minorities, had himself committed blasphemy by branding the murdered Christian brothers as victims of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

In November, Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by hanging in Sheikhupura, Punjab, on a charge of blasphemy. She said the accusation was false and was simply revenge after an argument in a berry field over drinking water[12].

The case sparked international reactions, and in 2018, thanks to international advocacy, Bibi was acquitted of the blasphemy charges after spending eight years on death row Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was shot dead by his security guard for supporting Asia Bibi. Taseer had visited Bibi in jail and had held a press conference with her. He had told the media that she would be released soon and the President of Pakistan will soon annul her death sentence. This triggered mass protests in Pakistan with many imams of local mosques claiming that Taseer had defied Mohammed and should be sentenced to death for it. Taseer was later assassinated in early 2011.

2009

  • On 22nd January, Hector Aleem a Christian Human Rights Activist in Pakistan was arrested on a blasphemy charge. According to the FIR, “Someone sent a blasphemous text message to the leader of Sunni Tehreek. Hector Aleem was arrested because the sender had once contacted him. Hector Aleem, the Chairman of Peace Worldwide, had been working for a church in Islamabad which was demolished by the CDA (Capital Development Authority) for having been built illegally. When Hector Aleem objected to the destruction of the church he was faced with several threats and lawsuits ranging from fraud to criminal charges. He fought all of them in the courts and proved his innocence. He also faced several assassination attempts. Hector Aleem was eventually arrested on the charge of blasphemy“.
  • On 9th July, an FIR was registered against two teenage brothers, the complainant falsely accusing them that they had spoken against Prophet Mohammad and this family had to leave the country for their safety. On 30 July 2009, hundreds of members of Sipah-e-Sahaba and International Khatm-e-Nabuwat ‘IKNM’ the banned Muslim organizations, torched the Christian homes and killed Christians in the Punjabi city of Gojra Faisalabad and in the nearby village of Korian, District Faisalabad. The professed reason for the violence was that a Christian had defiled and spoke against Prophet Mohammad.

2008

In February, Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Council reminded Pakistan’s representatives of the matter regarding Raja Fiaz, Muhammad Bilal, Nazar Zakir Hussain, Qazi Farooq, Muhammad Rafique, Muhammad Saddique, and Ghulam Hussain.

According to the allegations received, the men were members of the Mehdi Foundation International (MFI), a multi-faith institution utilizing the name of Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shahi. They were arrested on 23 December 2005 in Wapda Town. The police confiscated posters on which Gohar Shahi was shown as “Imam Mehdi.” On 13 July 2006, the Anti-Terrorism Court No. 1 in Lahore sentenced each accused to five years of imprisonment, inter alia, under § 295-A for having outraged others’ religious feelings. Since 27 August 2006, the seven men have been detained in Sahiwal Jail, Punjab, where they were forced to parade naked, were suspended from the ceiling, and beaten. For this reason, they were constantly threatened and intimidated by prison staff as well as by other detainees.

2006

On 3 June 2006, Pakistan banned the film after it was condemned by the Pakistan Muslim Jihadi group. It declared Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code as blasphemous. Culture Minister Ghulam Jamal said: “Islam teaches us to respect all the prophets of God Almighty and degradation of any prophet is tantamount to defamation of the rest.”

2005

On 11th August, Judge Arshad Noor Khan of the Anti-Terrorist Court found (another) Younus Shaikh guilty of defiling a copy of the Quran, outraging religious feelings, and propagating religious hatred among society. Shaikh’s conviction occurred because he wrote a book: Shaitan Maulvi (Satanic Cleric).

The book said stoning to death (Rajam) as a punishment for adultery was not mentioned in the Quran. The book said also that four historical imams (religious leaders) were Jews. The judge imposed upon Shaikh a fine of 100,000 rupees and sentenced him to spend his life in jail.

2000

In October, Pakistani authorities charged M. Younus Shaikh, a physician, with blasphemy on account of remarks that students claimed he made during a lecture. The students alleged that inter alia, Shaikh had said Muhammad’s parents were non-Muslims because they died before Islam existed. A judge ordered that Shaikh pay a fine of Rs 100,000 and that he be hanged.

On 20 November 2003, a court retried the matter and acquitted Shaikh, who fled Pakistan for Switzerland soon thereafter.

1996

On 14 October 1996, the police arrested Ayub Masih, a Pakistani Christian bricklayer for blasphemy and jailed him for violation of § 295-C. Muhammad Akram, a Muslim neighbor to Masih, complained to the police that Masih had said Christianity was right, and Masih had recommended that Akram read Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. The same day that Masih was arrested, Muslim villagers forced the entire Christian population of Masih’s village (fourteen families) to leave the village. Masih’s family had applied under a government program that gave housing plots to landless people. Local landlords resented Masih’s application because the landlords had been able to oblige landless Christians to work in the fields in exchange for a place to live. Masih’s application gave him a way out of his subservience to the landlords Upon Masih’s arrest, the authorities gave Masih’s plot to Akram. 

Akram shot and injured Masih in the halls of the Session Court at Sahiwal on 6 November 1997. Four assailants attacked Masih in jail. The authorities took no action against Akram or against the other assailants On 20 April 1998, Judge Abdul Khan sentenced Masih to death and levied a fine of 100,000 rupees. Two judges of the Lahore High Court heard Masih’s appeal on 24 July 2001. Shortly thereafter, the judges affirmed the judgment of the trial court. 

Human Right Organisation: ” Sniffing Snakes on Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws”

It’s highly condemnable that Human Right Organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Right Foundation, etc., have always acted as dumb and deaf to all the minorities who have been falsely convicted under Blasphemy Laws.

The conviction and death sentence for blasphemy drew attention to the country’s controversial laws. Overseas minorities of Pakistan had also condemned the brutal killing done under the pretext of Blasphemy laws. Europe-based Pakistani Arif Aajakia has titled Pakistan “A Banana Republic Champions of Human Rights”.

Ex-Pakistan ambassador to the United States, Hussain Haqqani pointed out that the media had downplayed facts and just wrote, “Pakistan’s blasphemy nightmare continues”.

The majority of Pakistan’s Hindu population is settled in Sindh province where they share culture, traditions, and language with Muslim residents. They often complain of harassment by Muslim extremists who openly get supported by Pakistan’s Police and Army.

The issue of forced conversions of young girls belonging to Pakistan’s Hindu community, is, unfortunately, a recurring issue in Pakistan. Here is how the cycle usually goes: blasphemy allegations, riots, vandalization of temples, and cases of abduction in Sindh begin. The government gives fake assurance that it will not happen again. It happens again. The cycle repeats. And so on.

Pakistani Hindus are demanding the arrest of Mian Mithu – who, they believe, is the mastermind behind all these cases that wreak havoc for religious minorities in Sindh every other day.

Mia Mithu is the pir of Barchundi Sharif, Mian Abdul Haq, who belongs to Sindh’s religiously and politically influential family. He was also Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)’s elected representative in 2008.

Governments come and go. But Mian Mithu is constant. If one party denies him an election ticket, the other grants him one. Despite being seen leading riots against religious minorities multiple times, the authorities still struggle to arrest, or even verbally condemn the atmosphere of hatred and extremism that he continues to strengthen[11].

Though as Muslims they are free from certain restrictions affecting other religious groups, Shias are still regarded as apostates by some extremist Sunni groups and individuals. As a result, many face regular hostility from extremists and public calls for members to be killed. Shi’a have also been subjected to various forms of hate speech, most commonly as campaigns in mosques, schools, public spaces, and increasingly on social media. Shi’a are vilified as a community for their religious beliefs and individuals are also picked out for criticism

The “2019 International Religious Freedom Report”, of the US Department of State, released on June 10, 2020, has voiced concern over the targeted killing in Pakistan of Shia Muslims, including ethnic Hazaras, who are largely Shia, and Ahmadi Muslims in attacks believed to be driven by faith.

Also, BBC’s report, titled, “The story of Pakistan’s “Disappeared” Shias”, published on May 31, 2018, states that around 140 Shias did disappear in Pakistan over a period of two years.

The UK Home Office in its report, ‘Country Policy and Information Note Pakistan: Shia Muslims’, dated January 2019 explains the discrimination experienced by Shias in Pakistan.

It is high time for the Muslim community to reject such concocted innovations which were started during British times in 1860 but were re-created, expanded, enacted, and criminalized in several installments under General Zia-ul Haq’s dictator military rule, during the 1980s[13]. Instead of demanding capital punishment for blasphemy, Muslims need to develop tolerance towards other people’s freedom of speech and expression. This is the true teaching of Islam.

To conclude, I want to ask on behalf of Pakistani minorities from Human Right Commission and all the Human Right Activists One Question: –

WHEN WILL BE PERSECUTION OF PAKISTANI MINORITIES (HINDU / JEW / CHRISTAN / SHIA) WILL END?


[1] Pakistan: Man accused of blasphemy killed by mob in Khanewal – BBC News

[2] Hindu teacher sentenced to life imprisonment over blasphemy charges in Pakistan | World News – Hindustan Times

[3] Pakistan: Killing of Sri Lankan accused of blasphemy sparks protests – BBC News

[4] Mob sets Charsadda police station on fire after officials refuse to hand over alleged blasphemy suspect – Pakistan – DAWN.COM

[5] Pakistan’s never-ending nightmare of blasphemy laws has a new victim — a school principal (theprint.in)

[6] Sajid Soomro: Another Pakistani academic falls victims to blasphemy law | Asia | An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 16.06.2020

[7] Pakistani politician accused of blasphemy for backing religious equality – UCA News

[8] Pakistani politician accused of blasphemy for backing religious equality – UCA News

[9] Pakistan: The cost of being Shia | South Asia Monitor

[10] Pakistani politician accused of blasphemy for backing religious equality – UCA News

[11] Behind forced conversions? Who is Mian Mithu and why is he so powerful (girls.pk)

[12] Pakistan Blasphemy Law “Toolkit for Slaughtering Minorities” – Kreately

[13] Pakistan Blasphemy Laws “Forced Evil on Minority” – Kreately

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