80-year-old ‘beheaded’ for alleged blasphemy in Sargodha

    In yet another horrific incident of violence over blasphemy allegations, an 80-year-old man has been beheaded for allegedly desecrating the flag of a religious organisation in Sargodha.

    According to reports, Muhammad Sharif, who ran a tyre puncture workshop near Dharima Bus Stand on Sargodha’s Khushab Road for over 40 years, was beheaded by a 20-year-old, claiming the former had committed blasphemy.

    “The youth started raising slogans after beheading Chacha Sharif,” eyewitnesses said, adding that the murderer claimed to have seen Sharif disrespecting some pamphlets, including the flag of a religious organisation bearing holy inscriptions.

    The youth’s claims were, however, rubbished by locals who said the 20-year-old attacked Sharif over a payment dispute. They also claimed that the youth had “earlier been arrested for extremist activities as well”.

    While police have arrested the 20-year-old and recovered the murder weapon, the killing has sparked outrage on Twitter.

    “Religious extremism has become so common in our society that people settle their personal scores under the guise of blasphemy,” journalist Bilal Farooqi said while condemning the misuse of the blasphemy laws.

    Journalist Sabookh Syed slammed mainstream media for skipping the news story altogether.

    “In Sargodha, a 20-year-old man beheaded an 80-year-old labourer in broad daylight on charges of blasphemy, but the media is completely silent,” he tweeted.

    Blasphemy is a sensitive subject in Pakistan where laws prescribe a mandatory death penalty for the guilty. Mere blasphemy allegations often provoke mob violence and lynching of suspects while those who make false accusations of blasphemy are sent home with a slap on the wrist.

    According to the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), at least 1,949 blasphemy accused were subjected to false allegations, prolonged trials and displacement between 1985 and December 2021.

    It adds that at least 84 people were killed after being suspected or accused under the said laws since their promulgation as part of former military ruler Ziaul Haq’s Islamisation during the 1980s.

    Mobs have lynched two people and injured two others in four cities of Pakistan between December 2021 and March 2022.

    Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara, 48, was accused of committing blasphemy at the factory he managed in Sialkot and was beaten to death by a mob last December whereas a mentally challenged person, Mushtaq Ahmad, was in February this year stoned to death by an enraged mod after the son of a local cleric accused him of burning pages of the Holy Quran in Khanewal.

    The continuous rise in incidents of violence over unproven blasphemy allegations has time and again prompted Ulemas to vociferously condemn such practices and declare the killing of any person under such circumstances as un-Islamic.

    The courts have the authority to punish the perpetrator of blasphemy and taking the law into one’s hands is not permissible according to both Sharia and law of the land, they say.

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