A court in Faisalabad has handed the death sentence to a Muslim man charged with blasphemy, sources said.
Faisalabad Additional Sessions Judge Rana Suhail Tariq convicted the accused Waseem Abbas on Feb 18. The convict was also fined 500,000 Rupees. He was accused of disrespecting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and was charged under Section 295-C of the blasphemy statutes.
Faisalabad’s Factory Area Police had registered a case against Abbas, a resident of Quaid-e-Azam Town, on June 22, 2020, on the complaint of Yasir Ali. The complainant alleged that Abbas had written some letters to him in which he had used derogatory language against Islam’s prophet.
The court has given a week’s time to the convict to challenge the sentence in the high court. The order also stated that in case the convict fails to file an appeal within the deadline, he should be executed after receiving confirmation from the Lahore High Court.
On Jan 19, a sessions court in Rawalpindi handed the death penalty to a Muslim woman charged with blasphemy.
Rawalpindi Additional Sessions Judge Adnan Mushtaq convicted 26-year-old Aneeqa Ateeq of blasphemy under Section 295-C and sentenced her to death and a fine of Rs 50,000. She was also convicted under different charges, including 298-A PPC and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. She was accused of sharing images deemed to be insulting to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and one of his wives.
On Jan 3, another sessions court in Rawalpindi changed a Christian’s life prison term under blasphemy laws into the death sentence.
Zafar Bhatti, 56, who has languished in jail since 2012 after being accused of sending blasphemous text messages, received the death sentence from Rawalpindi Additional Sessions Judge Sahibzada Naqeeb when Bhatti’s new lawyer contested the conviction instead of filing for post-conviction bail, said Bhatti’s former lawyer, Tahir Bashir.
Bhatti had been handed the life sentence, which in Pakistan is 25 years, on May 3, 2017, under Section 295-C. Bhatti is considered Pakistan’s longest-serving blasphemy convict.
SPIKE IN ANTI-BLASPHEMY VIOLENCE
Meanwhile, February 2022 witnessed an unprecedented increase in blasphemy-related violence in Punjab province, as one person accused of burning pages of the holy Quran was lynched and his body stoned after being hung from a tree by a mob in Mian Channu on Feb 12. It was later revealed that the accused was a 45-year-old Muslim suffering from mental illness for the last 15 years.
Two separate incidents of mob violence were reported from Faisalabad’s Tandlianwala area and Muzaffargarh’s Alipur tehsil on Feb 13 and Feb 14, respectively. Fortunately, in both incidents, the police managed to save the lives of the two accused from mobs wanting to lynch them. According to police, both accused were Muslims and were mentally deranged.
Commenting on the Mian Channu incident, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in a press release stated that the “lynching incident illustrates all too well that allegations of blasphemy have long gone beyond a law and order problem”.
“It is simply not enough to say that the government has a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy towards such perpetrators when its own minister brushed aside a similar incident as a case of ‘high emotions’. The state has consistently pandered to political and religious groups that have never had any qualms about encouraging religious fanaticism,” it said in a tweet.
According to a study, at least 89 persons were killed in 1,415 accusations and cases of blasphemy since modern Pakistan was formed in 1947.
The Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in a report stated that from 1947 to 2021, 18 women and 71 men were extra-judicially killed over blasphemy accusations. The allegations were made against 107 women and 1,308 men. Out of the total, 1,287 persons were accused of committing blasphemy from 2011-21.
“The actual number is believed to be higher because not all blasphemy cases get reported in the press,” the report said, adding that more than 70 percent of the accused were reported from Punjab. The data showed that 55 cases were filed in the Islamabad Capital Territory, which was more than the cases of blasphemy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Azad Kashmir put together.
Moreover, 1,098 cases were reported from Punjab followed by 177 from Sindh, 33 from KP, 12 from Balochistan, and 11 from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).