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World View: In Pakistan, You May Murder with Impunity by Claiming ‘Blasphemy’

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • In Pakistan, you may murder anyone with impunity by accusing him of blasphemy first
  • Even Pakistan is shocked by three blasphemy murders in 11 days

In Pakistan, you may murder anyone with impunity by accusing him of blasphemy first

Mashal Khan, lynched and killed by his college roommates after they falsely accused him of blasphemy (Facebook photo)
Mashal Khan, lynched and killed by his college roommates after they falsely accused him of blasphemy (Facebook photo)

In Pakistan, accusing someone of defiling Islam or the Prophet Mohammed, even if the accusations are 100% false, is a free ticket to murder someone with impunity.

Blasphemy has long been treated as a crime in many countries, including Christian countries, although rarely enforced. Many countries have repealed their blasphemy laws.

In Pakistan, blasphemy laws were first codified by the British colonial rulers in 1860 and expanded in 1927. Pakistan inherited these laws after Partition in 1947 created the country. Between 1947 and 1985, there were only 14 known legal cases of blasphemy. But in 1986, Pakistan broadened the blasphemy laws and made it a capital offense. Since that year, over 4,000 cases of blasphemy have been registered. Since 1990, there have been at least 66 murders over unproven allegations of blasphemy.

The law, as it was passed in 1992, said:

Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.

So anyone accused of blasphemy can be jailed, tortured and executed. There is apparently no need for blasphemy accusers to provide proof, and therefore someone accused of blasphemy has no defense. Analysts claim that blasphemy laws are most often used against Christians, Shia Muslims, and other non-Sunni Muslim sects such as the Ahmadis.

Prior to 2011, there were many calls to reform the blasphemy laws. But in 2011, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, tried to reform the blasphemy laws and was shot dead by his own bodyguard. For years, the murderer was not prosecuted, but treated as a hero by other politicians and lawyers for having killed a blasphemer – using the twisted logic that calling for reform of the blasphemy laws is itself an act of blasphemy worthy of instant murder.

Since then, politicians in fear of their lives have refrained from calling for any reforms to the blasphemy laws, while judges and lawyers are afraid to defend accused blasphemers, even when there’s no evidence. The result is that blasphemy charges are freely used for personal disputes, and even allow a murder with impunity. BBC (6-Nov-2014) and Christians In Pakistan and South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP – India) and Reuters (20-Apr)

Even Pakistan is shocked by three blasphemy murders in 11 days

In recent years, I’ve reported on dozens of terror attacks by Pakistan terror groups on Pakistan civilians. These most often target Shia Muslims, and a single terror attack might kill dozens or even hundreds of people, including women and children.

If terror attacks are used for mass slaughter, then killing based on the blasphemy laws can be thought of as terror attacks on an individual basis. If you don’t like your next door neighbor, you probably cannot kill him with a bomb, but you can shoot him dead after accusing him of blasphemy. And if he is a Shia Muslim or Christian, there will usually be no punishment.

However, there has been a sudden rash of the blasphemy killings, with three of them in the 11 days, causing the normally unshockable people in the Pakistani public to actually be shocked.

On April 13, college student Mashal Khan was accused of blasphemy by his roommates in a hostel where they were all living. The mob of roommates brutally lynched Mashal Khan, beating him before shooting him in the head and chest. The mob then continued to beat his dead body with sticks.

Apparently, Mashal’s crime was a tv interview where he complained about the administration of the college he was attending and called for reduced college fees. Mashal’s cousin wants to go to college, but his father is telling him, “Don’t go to a university. They kill children there.”

Since then, two other blasphemy charges have turned into mob violence. On April 19, three girls in their 20s wearing burqas shot dead Fazal Abbas. Abbas had been accused of blasphemy in 2004 and had fled the country to Denmark. He only returned to Pakistan recently to defend himself against the blasphemy charges. He was out on bail when the three girls killed him. One was quoted as saying, “we couldn’t kill him at the time [2004] because we were too young then.”

On April 21, Rashid Ahmed was accused of uttering “blasphemous remarks” during Friday prayers at a mosque in northwest Pakistan. The worshippers in the mosque started beating the man. Six police officers were injured trying to rescue him. The mosque’s imam saved him and turned him over to police.

According to witnesses, Ahmed entered the mosque asking to make an important announcement. He then declared himself a messiah and said he would lead his followers to paradise. According to police, the man is suffering from mental illness.

These brutal murders have shocked Pakistan, and there are renewed calls to reform the blasphemy laws. But there’s little hope of any real reform. This is a country that pays terrorists to attack targets in India and Afghanistan, and the same psychopathic vitriol that permeates Pakistan’s clerical establishment also protects the blasphemy laws and particularly their use in freely killing Shia Muslims and Christians. Daily Times (Pakistan) and Al Jazeera and Geo TV (Pakistan 18-Apr) and Express Tribune (Pakistan)

Related Articles

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Pakistan, blasphemy, Salman Taseer, Mashal Khan, Fazal Abbas, Rashid Ahmed
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