Monday, 6 October 2014

Blatant misuse of blasphemy law, Mohammad Nafees, Senior Research Fellow at CRSS

Blatant misuse of blasphemy law, Mohammad Nafees, Senior Research Fellow at CRSS
September 29, 2014

In the month of September, yet another Pakistani – became victim of lawlessness from a person who was supposed to be a law enforcer and protector.  The victim, a 70-year-old British man Muhammad Asghar, was a mentally challenged person already sentenced to death by the court on blasphemy charges.
On September 25, a prison guard, Muhammad Yousuf from Elite Force, managed to gain access to the barrack where the victim was kept and opened fire on him. He survived the attack but got wounded [Note: Initial reports declared Pastor Zafar Bhatti as dead and Muhammad Asghar as wounded[1] [2].  There is no further information about Pastor Zafar Bhatti though there are unconfirmed reports that he was also shot at.]  Did the guard commit a crime and does he deserve punishment or applause for an act that many in Pakistan condone in the name of religion, using the controversial Blasphemy laws as a shield?
Unfortunately, this is not the first case of this kind;  on January 4,  2011, a personal security guard of the then Governor of the Punjab province, Salman Taseer,  resorted to a similar lawlessness when he rained bullets on Taseer in the presence of a dozen police officials and several bystanders at a busy upscale market in Islamabad.
A section of the lawyer’s community had then hailed the perpetrator of this crime – Malik Mumtaz Qadri – as a hero and greeted him with flowers when he arrived at the court for the first hearing.  The judge, who convicted Qadri to death, had to leave the country soon after passing the judgment for never to return.
Rashid Rehman, a lawyer and human rights activist, was another victim of a premeditated extrajudicial murder in May2014.  Before his murder, his co-lawyer had threatened him right inside a judicial court to either quit appearing as a defense lawyer of a blasphemy accused or be ready to disappear from the face of earth. He knew too, that many others had declined to take on the case but refused to budge because he believed that every defendant deserved a lawyer, even – or perhaps especially – someone facing perhaps the most serious allegation that can be leveled at you in Pakistan. And he paid the price for it when two gunmen entered his office in the southern Punjab and shot him dead.
For unexplained reasons no action was taken against the fellow lawyer who had threatened Rehman earlier.
The target killing in September of a Professor of Karachi University, Mr Shakeel Auj, is also suspected to have a link with hate messages that were sent by some of his fellow professors accusing him of committing blasphemy.
According to the data on the reported blasphemy cases, 59 persons have been extra judicially murdered in the country since 1990.  Among them were nine women as well, who were not spared by the brave religious zealots who feel solace in committing such crimes.  Two of these extra judicially murdered persons were Iqbal Butt and Muhammad Imran who were slain even after getting acquitted from the judicial court. There are four cases of extra judicial attempts to kill blasphemy accused, including the two latest attempts to kill Pastor Zafar Bhatti and Muhammad Asghar according to the data annexed to this report as attachment.
Like honor killing – a brutal tradition perpetrated in rural Pakistan in the name of family honor – extra judicial killings of blasphemy accused has also become such a social evil that draws adoration from people who consider it religiously right to kill anybody who might have committed blasphemy or defiled the name of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
The Punjab province appears to have had the highest number of such crimes committed in the country, where 49 blasphemy accused have so far been extra- judicially killed.  In Sindh, seven persons lost their lives to this crime followed by the capital city of Islamabad with a loss of two lives and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa had only one victim. Balochistan, and FATA, the highly volatile regions of the country, have so far been surprisingly safe from such crime.
Vigilante justice and mobocracy are the two illegal forms of crime that came into practice soon after the induction of blasphemy laws, PPC-295B and PPC295C, in 1984 and 1985. The first such cases of vigilante justice killed five non-Muslims Tahir Iqbal in 1990, Niamat Ahmer, Bantu Masih and Mukhtar Masih in 1992, and Manzoor Masih in 1993. After attaining impunity in committing vigilante justice, the next step forward of the religious fanatics was to resort to mobocracy.  The victim of this crime was none other than a Hafiz-e-Quran- one who remembers the Quran by heart – Dr. Sajjad Farooq, who was beaten to death by a mob of religious vigilantes in Gujranwala on false blasphemy charges in April 1995.
Since then there has been no letup in extra judicial killings of blasphemy accused and on an average three persons have been killed every year.  Coincidently, Gujranwala and Lahore are the two districts of the most populous province Punjab where extra-judicial killings on blasphemy charges have taken the highest toll in the country, nearly 50% of which are Muslims and the remaining 50% are non-Muslims though they are less than 5% of the total population.
Attempts of lynching of blasphemy accused by outraged mob are another form of lawlessness that has also become a practice now. Since 1997 to date nearly thirteen cases of lynching attempts have been reported in the press.
Incidents of vigilante justice and adoration of the perpetrators of such crimes by  different segments of the society raise question not only about the sense of justice that has gained acceptance in the country but also about the inability of the state and that of the political leadership to counter the trend. It also highlights the phenomenon of growing religions intolerance. For fear of reprisal by religious extremists and vigilantes most people opt to stay silent when target-killing is committed. At times many become partner in crime. So far real punitive action by police authorities or courts is missing as political leaders refuse to pick up courage and push for a review of the law that extremist’s uses as a carte blanche to murder people they believe have committed blasphemy.
Extrajudicial killing                                  =             57           Killed
Acquittal/Extra Judicial                          =             2              killed after getting acquitted from court.
Extrajudicial attempt/Acquittal             =             1              Injured in an extra judicial attack but was later released
Extrajudicial attempt                                =             3              injured

Accused of
25 Sep 14: Rawalpindi
Express Tribune
Pastor Zafar Bhatti
Accused of blasphemy
Earlier report as Killed in an attack by an Elite Force cops Muhammad Yousuf. Later his name was removed from reports that appeared on the subject.
25 Sep 14: Rawalpindi
Express Tribune
70-year-old British man Muhammad Asghar, Mentally Challenged
Death sentence on blasphemy charges
Wounded in an attack by an Elite Force cop Muhammad Yousuf.
20 Sep 14: Karachi
The News
Shakeel Auj, KU Professor
Accused of blasphemy
Gunned down while going to attend a ceremony organized in his honor. His fellow professors, who blamed him for blasphemy, are being investigated by the police.
28 Jul 14: Gujranwal
Exp Tribune
 Bushra Bibi aged 54, Hira aged 7 and his sister Kainat who was six months old and an unborn child
Accused of blasphemy
Gujranwala:  Houses belonging to Ahmadis were set ablaze in Gujranwala by a charged mob after an Ahmadi boy was accused of blasphemy.
8 May 14: Multan
The News
Rashid Rahman
Defence Lawyer of a blasphemy accused
Armed gunmen shot dead a lawyer defending a university lecturer accused of blasphemy in Multan on Wednesday, officials said.
22 Dec 12: Dadu
Express Tribune
Desecration of holy Quran
Burnt alive for allegedly desecrating the Holy Quran in a village in Dadu district
4 Jul 12: Bahawalpur
Express Tribune
Ghulam Abbas (A mentally challenged) Unknown (Malang) Mentally challenged
Defiling the Holy Quran
Pulled out of the police station, and burnt alive.
16 Apr 12: Lahore
Express Tribune
Iqbal Butt, 80 years old man
Accused of blasphemy
Shot dead after acquitted by the court
1 Apr 12: Faisalabad
Express Tribune
Master Abdul Qudoos Ahmed, Teacher, Ahmadi
Accused of murder
A well-known Ahmadi schoolteacher was allegedly tortured to death while in police custody in Rabwah city of Punjab
3 Oct 11: Lahore
Express Tribune
Dilawar Hussain, 42,
Convert to Ahmadi sect.
As his students watched, a recent convert to the Ahmadi faith, Dilawar Hussain, 42, was shot dead at a government primary school because local clerics declared him “liable to be killed”.
5 Sep 11: Faisalabad
Express Tribune
Naseem Ahmad Butt, 55,
you are Ahmadi and liable to be killed’,” the killers said
Naseem Ahmad Butt, 55, was shot dead by four men
31 Jul 11: Gujranwala
Express Tribune
 Shakila, 35
Converted from Christianity to Islam to marry for the second time.
Her former husband, Ashfaq Masih, killed her outside the central jail
18 Jul 11: Lahore
Express Tribune
Shaukat Ali, Mentally challenged
Imprisoned in 2007 on blasphemy charges
Died in prison
11 Jul 11: Thailand
Express Tribune
Thai woman
Accused of blasphemy by a Pakistani lover
A Thai woman was murdered by a Pakistani lover on charges of blasphemy in Thailand.
21 Mar 11: Sanghar
Rana Zafarullah
Unknown except that he was an Ahmadi.
Shot dead in front of his house
5 Mar 11: Rawalpindi
Mohammad Imran,
Accused in a blasphemy case and released last year,
Gunned down on the outskirts of the city on Friday.
2 Mar 11: Islamabad
Shahbaz Bhati, Minister Minority Affairs
Involved in issues dealing with the misuse of the blasphemy cases.  He and Salman Taseer were working on Aasia Bibi case as well.
Gunned down by unidentified assailants
7 feb 11: Rawalpindi
Rival Muslim Sects blaming each other of committing blasphemy
Blasphemy -   registration of a case against a Muslim sect under the blasphemy and anti-terrorism laws after a clash with their rival sect that resulted in death of two persons and injuring one
Two died and one injured in clash and others were arrested
7 Feb 11: Rawalpindi
Rival Muslim Sects blaming each other of committing blasphemy
Blasphemy -   registration of a case against a Muslim sect under the blasphemy and anti-terrorism laws after a clash with their rival sect that resulted in death of two persons and injuring one.
Two died and one injured in clash and others were arrested
4 Jan 11: Islamabad
Salman Taseer, Governor
Called the blasphemy law as black law.
Extra judicial assassination of Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab by his own body guard because he called the blasphemy laws a ‘kala qanoon‘.
20 Jul 10: Faisalabad
Rashid Emanuel & Sajid Emanuel
Blasphemy 295C
Two Christian brothers accused of distributing blasphemous material were gunned down on the premises of the sessions court here on Monday.
13 Feb 10: Rawalpindi
Dawn (5 Mar 11)
Muhammad Imran, Sajjid Mahmood
Accused of blasphemy
According to police, Mohammad Imran, who was released along with his friend Sajid Mehmood on Feb 13 last year.  [On 4 Mar 2011, Mohammad Imran] was sitting at a shop near a bus stand in Danda village when three masked gunmen attacked[ and killed]
2009 – July 31:Gojra
7 Christians
Defiling the Holy Quran
Seven people were burnt alive and 18 others injured in Gojra, District Toba Tek Singh in Punjab after fresh violence erupted in the town over the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran three days ago.
Najeeb Zafar + worker
Defiling the verses of Holy Quran
Two people were killed when a mob of hundreds of people, including factory workers, attacked a leather processing unit near Muridke on Tuesday over alleged desecration of Quranic verses
March 2008: Hyderabad
Anees Mallah; Tortured & shot dead in prison.
 Rammed his motorbike into the gate of a Milad event
A mob of 200 people in the Sanghar prison on April 3, 2009. He was reportedly tortured before being shot dead.
2008 – April 08: Karachi
Jagdesh Kumar
Blasphemy charges from co-workers
Extra judicial murder
2008: Toba Tek Singh
Simon Emmanuel
Brother of blasphemy accused
Shot dead
24 jun 07: Gujrat
The News
Muhammad Qasim
Blasphemy – published a blasphemous book
Killed by Policeman
28 Jun 05: Hasilpur, Punjab
Master Sadiq
Blasphemy 295A
Killed by mob
28 Jun 05: Muzaffargarh
Abdul Sattar Gopang
Blasphemy (Desecrating the Holy Quran)
Stabbed to death
17 Apr 05: Nowshera
Ashiq Nabi
Blasphemy 295A – desecration of the Holy Quran
Shot dead on 20 April 2005
Samuel Masih
Spitting on the wall of a mosque
Police officer killed him in jailwho using a hammer and later claiming that it was his duty as a Muslim to kill Masih
2003: Kasur
Maulvi Sanaullah
2 Oct 03: Sheikhpura
Mushtaq Masih
No case was registered
2002 – June 11: Lahore
Mohamamed Yousaf Ali, 55 year old Muslim Cleric
shot dead in prison by a co-prisoner
2002: Lahore
Saeed Bhatti
24 Jun 02: Gujranwala
Mohammed Asghar Ali
Blasphemy – no case was registered
Murdered by police constable
2001: Gujranwala
Pandu Khan
Accused of blasphemy
Allegedly committed suicide in jail
2000: Dadu
Zafar Ahmad
 Accused of blasphemy.
1999: Punjab
Munir Malang
10 Jan 99: Rahimyar Khan
Unidentified Woman, mentally sick
Burnt alive
Ayub Masih,Lynched in jail but survived
Blasphemy –
Supreme Court set aside the LHC judgment for death
1997 – October 19: Lahore
Judge Arif Iqbal Bhatti
Acquitted two blasphemy accused
17 Jun 95: Karachi
Zafar Iqbal
Blasphemy – no case was registered
1995: Sargodha
Adnan Ahmad
Mukhtar Masih & Sadiq Masih
Relative of Sadiq Masih, an accused of blasphemy
Murdered   – Status of the accused Sadiq Masih unknown
21 April 1995, Gujranwala
Dr. Sajjad Farooq
Defiling the Holy Quran
Beaten to death by mob
1993 – May: Gujranwala
Manzoor Masih
Writing blasphemous remarks on a mosque
Manzoor Masih gunned down outside the court.
1992 – Lahore
Bantu Masih, 80 & Mukhtar Masih 50
Tortured to death in police station.
1992 – January 06: Faisalabad
Niamat Ahmad, Teacher
Butchered by a young member of a militant religious group
1990 – December 07: Lahore
Tahir Iqbal, a Christian convert

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