Pakistan authorities reportedly arrested a retired army official this week for allegedly writing “derogatory comments” about Islamic personalities on Facebook, which violates the country’s blasphemy law.
Insulting Islam is a crime in Pakistan, punishable by life imprisonment or death, depending on the perceived severity of the offense.
On Wednesday, Dawn reported that a Pakistani court remanded the 50-year-old unnamed suspect to the Adiala jail in Punjab province for two weeks “on a charge of blasphemy.”
Citing a complaint lodged with the Golra police station in Islamabad, the newspaper noted that “the suspect having a Facebook account allegedly [posted] derogatory comments in response to the posts in praise of holy personalities.”
Yasir Qasmi, the complainant, reportedly claimed:
Whenever I share something [on Facebook] in praise of the holy [Islamic] personalities, including Khulfae Rashideen, Ummul Momineen, Ahle Bait and companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), the man starts replying with derogatory comments.
Dawn did not reveal the defendant’s religious identity.
Pakistan’s strict blasphemy law is predominantly used to target Christians and other religious minorities. Christians and other minorities are known to serve in the Pakistani military.
So far, the Pakistani government has not executed anyone for blasphemy. Islamists, however, often attempt to kill those accused of blasphemy and rarely face justice for their crimes.
Last week, Pakistan finally allowed Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, to leave the country and reunite with her family in Canada, months after the highest court in the nation cleared her of a blasphemy conviction.
Bibi spent eight years on death row on charges that she insulted Muhammad.
This week, a video surfaced online in which a man claimed to be in Canada to send Bibi “to hell.”
Angered by her acquittal, Islamists have threatened to kill Bibi, her family, the lawyers who helped her, and judges who cleared her.
Several Christians remain in Pakistani custody for alleged blasphemy, the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) has acknowledged.
Authorities are reportedly holding one of those detainees in Bibi’s old jail cell.
Anonymous accusers claimed Shagufta Kousar, despite being illiterate, sent a blasphemous text message. In 2014, law enforcement took Kousar and her disabled husband, Shafquat Masih, into custody on charges of blasphemy.
Acknowledging Bibi’s case and other infractions, in January, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) placed Pakistan on its Special Watch List for severe religious freedom violators.