Former prime minister (PM) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan among other party leaders were on Sunday booked for blasphemy in Faisalabad.
According to the FIR [First Information Report], the top brass of the PTI was accused of involvement in the incident at Masjid-e-Nabwi [Prophet (PBUH)’s Mosque] in Medina where PM Shehbaz Sharif and his cabinet members were ridiculed by some Pakistani pilgrims, drawing strong reactions from Muslims across the globe.
The case against the PTI leadership was registered under Sections 295, 295-A, 296, and 109 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), which pertain to blasphemy by harming a place of worship with intent to insult a religion, deliberate and malicious intent to outrage religious sentiments, disturbing religious assembly and abetment.
Shahbaz Gill, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and his nephew Sheikh Rashid Shafiq, Fawad Chaudhry, Qasim Suri, Sahibzada Jahangir and Aneel Musarrat are among the senior leaders of the PTI booked for blasphemy.
While Musarrat and Jahangir had travelled to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah two days before the incident, former interior minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed’s statements from earlier in the week had suggested he was aware that the incident would take place.
At least 150 others have also been named in the FIR by Muhammad Naeem, a resident of Faisalabad, who claimed that the incident at the holy site, videos of which went viral, was a “planned out scheme and conspiracy”.
He added that the videos shared on social media and speeches made by PTI leaders prior to the delegation’s visit were proof of the alleged crime.
According to a senior police officer, various cases have been registered against the PTI leaders in different cities of Punjab.
After the FIR was filed, former interior minister Sheikh Rashid’s nephew Sheikh Rashid Shafiq was taken into custody by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) upon his arrival at the Islamabad airport from Saudi Arabia.
PTI ‘READY TO FIGHT’
Reacting to the news of the FIR, ex-information minister Fawad Chaudhry tweeted that the PTI leadership was ready to “fight it”.
A series of FIRs ordered under instructions of interior ministry, bring it on we will fight …. #Imported_Hakoomat_Namanzoor https://t.co/LHoE3nOG4w
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) April 30, 2022
PTI leader Shahbaz Gill also reacted to the FIR in a tweet.
انشاللہ اس کا بھی مقابلہ کریں گے https://t.co/8NMGo7ofTi
— Dr. Shahbaz GiLL (@SHABAZGIL) April 30, 2022
It may be noted that former PM Imran has already distanced himself from the unruly incident. During an interview to a private TV channel, the deposed PM claimed that he could not even imagine of asking anyone to raise slogans at the holy site.
While the coalition government is yet to react to the blasphemy case against PTI leaders, it merits a mention that rights groups have time and again voiced concerns over the blatant misuse of the country’s blasphemy laws over personal enmity or to settle political scores.
Blasphemy allegations often lead to extrajudicial killings of the accused as witnessed in the mob lynching case of Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara among several other cases during 2021-22 alone whereas those bringing false accusations walk scot-free.