PAKISTAN: Barbarity in the name of religion is at its height 

Pakistan is known in the international community and declared in the country’s Constitution as an Islamic nation where Islam is glorified as the superb religion and its followers are pious Muslims. There is no doubt that Islam teaches tolerance, love, respect for other religions, and that life and death are in the hands of Allah. The killing of any human being is forbidden and in the Quran it is the highest form of sin.

But how Islam is defined in practice is yet a big question in Pakistani society. In the absence of any clear definition about the implementation of Islam a strong perception has been widely spread that it can be implemented only through the violence and exemplary punishment to those who do not properly follow its precepts. Saudi Arabia, being the role model of Shariah and a real Islamic country, demonstrates its commitment every Friday by handing down death sentences that are then carried out by beheading. At the same time thieves have their hands removed.

The Muslim fundamentalists, their militant organisations, the military governments and right wing political parties of Pakistan have been trying to replicate the Islamic model of Saudi Arabia which has generated an atmosphere of intolerance and violence by punishing ordinary people in the name of Islam. The gross misuse of blasphemy laws is one of the reasons society is turning into a killing field. Virtual anarchy rules in the country and total chaos is not far behind.

The absence of the rule of law and a weak criminal justice system allows the increasing religious intolerance where the religious groups, with the help of the mushrooming growth of seminaries (Madressas) and mosques are enforcing their own tailored Islamic laws by killing, attacking, forcibly converting non-Muslims to Islam and implicating any person who stands in their way in blasphemy cases.

The barbaric incidents of the Muslim fundamentalists can be seen in the following cases in which the state remains a silent spectator. The Asian Human Rights Commission has collected cases of killings, sectarian violence, lynching and false implication of blasphemy charges during the eight months of this year. Most of the cases were taken from the Urgent Appeals of the Asian Human Rights Commission and research compilations by Mr. Nafees Mohammad based on news clippings from the Daily Express Tribune, Daily Dawn, Daily Time and Daily TheNews.

On August 27, 2012, three more persons from the Hazara Shia community were shot dead and two were injured. The deceased were identified as Zamin Ali, Mustafa and Muhammad Ali. The injured were Ghulam Raza and Zahir Shah. Police said that a pick-up, which had been on its way to Marriabad from Hazara Town, Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, came under attack on the Spini Road.

Also during August more than 35 Shiites were killed by assailants in military uniform. During this period around 150 Shiites were killed in different attacks. The attackers claim to be followers of the Wahabi sect, a Saudi Arabian sect, which itself is a minority in Pakistan and number even fewer in comparison to Shia sect.

On August 16, in the early morning, four buses, carrying passengers from Gilgit to Rawalpindi, a city of Punjab, were halted by around 50 men in military uniforms at Babusar Top in Kaghan valley, Mansehra district. All the passengers were asked to alight from the busses and show their national identity cards, after identifying 25 persons as Shia Muslims. Their hands were tied and more than a dozen assailants opened fire at them, killing all 25. After the shooting they marched away in military style shouting Allah ho Akbar.

The Shias from Hazara tribe of Balochistan were killed in those areas which were under the strict control of the Pakistan army and its unit, the Frontier Corp. the places of killings were barely three to 500 meters from the military check posts.

Further incidents may be seen at:

August 18, The 11 persons, from the Sunni sect, were killed in sectarian violence occurred in District Central,Karachi  where 10 people lost their lives in overnight killings that took place in a span of two hours, while another man was killed at noon. Police suspect the wave of violence was in retaliation  for attacks on the Shia community. The first attack occurred in Gulberg locality, where motorcyclists fired on Qari Asif and Qari Shakirullah while they were sitting in their office. At around 1:20am, the second target were three friends: Maulana Muhammad Yahya, 32, Faizan Ilyas, 27 and Mujahid Aleem, 26. Twenty minutes later, a similar incident occurred near Masjid-o-Madrassa Quba, just two kilometres from Masjid-o-Madrassa Yasinul Quran. Assailants sprayed people sitting at Café Green with bullets, killing five people and injuring another. One of the men killed, Hafiz Sharjeel Ali, was associated with the Tableeghi Jamaat. Witnesses and acquaintances claimed the five men were targeted because they were Deobandi, a sect from Sunni Muslim. The fourth such incident occurred at a two-kilometre distance from where the funeral prayers for the Gulberg victims were being offered – another Deobandi, Qari Ahsan, 30, was gunned down when he was returning home from Friday prayers.

On August 17, Karachi: A day after a horrific massacre of 19 Shias in Mansehra, a bus carrying young Shia men was targeted by a bomb in Karachi. Two of them were killed and 13 others were injured. The bomb was planted at a footpath near the main gate of Safari Park, close to an electric substation. The bus was carrying activists of the Imamia Student Organisation (ISO) who boarded the bus at Karachi University

On August 16, a minor Christian girl, Miss Ramsha, 11, with Down ‘s syndrome, was arrested on the charges of blasphemy when she burned some copies of newspapers which were collected from the garbage. The Muslim population of the slum area attacked her house and beat her mother and sister and also burned some houses of Christians. The police arrested the mother and her two daughters and immediately sent Ramsha to Adiala prison illegally as according to law minors below the age of 15 years cannot be sent to prison or detained in police lockup. After her arrest police took the custody of her mother and sister and their whereabouts are unknown. Police say that both mother and daughter are in the protective custody because of the apprehension of their killing by the Muslim activists. However, the Christian community suspect that they were handed over the Muslim activists and that their lives may be in serious danger.

In August, more than 200 Hindu families migrated to India because of continuous abduction for ransom, forced conversion to Islam after kidnapping, attack on their places of worship and houses, displacement, accusation of blasphemy and general persecution by the Muslim seminaries. Hindus, whose sizeable population live in all the districts of Sindh, have been facing continued incidence of violence compelling them to live under insecurity. The trend has continued for many years now.

On July 4, in Bahawalpur there was a harrowing incident of mob justice, hundreds of people accused a ‘deranged’ man of sacrilege, mercilessly beat him and burnt him alive in southern Punjab. The incident took place in Chanighot area of Bahawalpur. Residents saw a man allegedly throwing pages from the Holy Quran onto the street. Local police took him into custody and put him in the lockup. Soon a frenzied mob gathered outside the Chanighot police station baying for blood. Police couldn’t stand up to the furious and violent crowd who got hold of the alleged blasphemer, described by one police official as deranged, and brutally tortured him. Nine police officers, including SHO Gujjar and DSP were injured while trying – though unsuccessfully – to rescue the man. The mob burnt down several police vehicles, including DSP Mumtaz’s four-wheeler, before getting hold of the man, who has not been identified.

On July 19, Karachi, a devout senior Ahmadiy Muslim, Mr Naeem Ahmad Gondal, was shot in the head by two motorcyclists and died on the spot. He was an elite Ahmadiy Muslim and also holding the high position of Assistant Director in the State Bank of Pakistan. He was an active member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and had been the President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Korangi town, Karachi, for the past 11 years. Mr Naeem was the seventh Ahmadiy Muslim killed in Karachi for his faith and belief since the beginning of this year and the world is aware of the hundreds of other Ahmadiy Muslims who have been killed in Pakistan so far just for being Ahmadiy and being devoted to their faith and belief.

On July 1 in Faisalabad mob rule trumped the law when an infuriated crowd severely beat a man accused of blasphemy, within the jurisdiction of the Ghulam Muhammad Abad police station. According to the police, Faryad allegedly committed some blasphemous acts over which the residents of Marzi Pura caught him and severely thrashed and tortured him. After this, the police registered an FIR on the complaint of Abdus Sattar, a resident of Marzipura, and started an investigation.

On July 6, Khanpur a barber was sent to jail after he was arrested on charge of defiling pages of the Holy Quran. Rafiq Ahmed, a resident of Basti Ghazipur, was accused by Abdur Rasheed, the prayer leader of Ayesha Siddiqa Masjid, of using pages of the Holy Quran to clean some mirrors at his shop. Ahmed later said that he was illiterate and had no idea whether the papers he had used had verses of the Holy Quran written on them

On June 28 at least 13 pilgrims were martyred and several others injured in a bomb blast on Zaireen’s bus in Hazar Ganji, Quetta, the capital of Balochistan where the city remains under the tight control of the Frontier Corp (FC), a unit of the Pakistan Army. In the city it is not possible for anyone to move without being body searched by the FC and other law enforcement agencies yet the militants pass freely. The reports say that a police officer was also killed in the attack.

During the month of June alone, 31 Shiites were killed in the Quetta and Mand areas of Balochistan

On June 24 Rekha alias Pubi (14) was working at a factory for the manufacturing of bottles for beverages at Gadap Karachi. She was abducted by gangsters and forcibly converted to Islam. When a police case was filed against the abductors the girl was produced before a Magistrate’s Court by the gangsters to record a statement that she has embraced Islam as her religion. The irony of the judicial process is that the judicial magistrate has accepted her subsequent marriage as legal in spite of the Pakistan law which does not allow the marriage of girls before the age of 16 years.

The irony of the case is that the Chief Justice has with his own technique of law allowed the forced marriage and conversion to Islam as an Islamic victory. The next Friday, after the prayers, chief justice met with Naveed Shah and congratulated him on success on converting a Hindu girl to Islam.

On June 16, a mob attacked a police station in Quetta on Saturday, demanding a man detained for allegedly desecrating the Quran be handed over, leaving at least two children dead and 19 with gunshot wounds. Violence erupted after police arrested a “mentally retarded” man said to have burnt pages of the holy book in Kuchlak, about 16 kilometres (10 miles) north of Quetta, senior administration official Qambar Dashti told AFP. The clash left two children dead and 19 people wounded including eight policemen, he said. “All the wounded people have bullet injuries,” he added. “The man appeared to be mentally retarded, we have taken him into custody and ordered an investigation,” Wajid said, adding that control had been restored.

June 7, Quetta: In the targeted killings two brothers belonging to the Hazara Shia community were gunned down outside the regional passport office near Joint Road. The victims had come to the post office to get their passports made and were attacked outside the main gate of the office.

In May 2012, An 82 year old man, was shot dead by the complainant in Sheikhupura after his release from prison after acquittal by a court on being proved innocent in a blasphemy case. Iqbal Butt was on his way home on a rickshaw when he was shot dead in the city’s Farooqabad locality. Two men, including his accuser Maulvi Waqas and an unidentified accomplice, chased him on a motorcycle and opened fire, resulting in his death. Javed Butt, a stepson of Iqbal Butt, said that Maulvi Waqas accused his father of blasphemy just to settle a score with him after they exchanged harsh words during an argument earlier on.

May 30, Quetta: A Hazara was shot dead, the victim has been identified as Ali Muhammad, and was traveling on his bicycle after having lunch in a restaurant on Joint Road, when unknown armed men opened fire. Later, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in a phone call to Quetta Press Club claimed responsibility.

On May 06, Quetta: A Hazara Shiite was killed by unknown gunmen Mastung on Sunday,. He was working at his tyre shop in Dasht area of Mastung, when unknown armed men riding on a bike opened fire and killed him at the spot. The victim is identified as Muhammad Ali.

On May 4, Policemen scratched out Quranic verses written on the walls of an Ahmedi place of worship and ordered them to cover up short minarets at the entrance as they made the place look like a mosque. After receiving a complaint about the place of worship in Sultanpura, Kachhupura, a large contingent of Misri Shah police visited it and told the Ahmedis they had a day to make the place look less like a mosque, failing which a case would be registered against them under the ‘Anti-lslamic Activities of Qadiani Group, Lahori Group and Ahmadis (Prohibition and Punishment) Ordinance’ of 1984.

On May 4, clerics in Sultanpura, Lahore, who complained that an Ahmedi place of worship looked too much like a mosque were unsatisfied with changes made to the building’s facade and demanded that the building’s dome be demolished, The Express Tribune has learnt. The administration of Baitul Hamd, the worship place, covered the chhatri (flattened dome) at the entrance by installing a hoarding in front of it on May 4. A day earlier, Misri Shah police had removed some tiles with the Kalma and Quranic verses from the building entrance.

In the month of May a Hindu lawyer, Mr. Mohan Lal Meghwar, son of Karo Mal, resident of village Bhadisindhu, Chachro, district Tharparkar, Sindh province, was released by his abductors after paying millions of rupees. On December 30, 2011 he was abducted again when he was on way to Sindh high court, Hyderabad bench, 56 kilometers away from his residence to attend the court proceedings.

On April 18, the decision in the cases of Ms. Haleema alias Asha Kumari, Ms. Hafza alias Dr. Lata, and Ms. Faryal alias Rinkle Kumari who were forced to convert to Islam after abduction, has proved that that the highest court is a biased Muslim court rather than institution of justice. The judgment concerning this issue has worried the religious minorities who already face an existential threat, demographically but also due to rising religious intolerance in the society.

April 15, Quetta: At least eight members of the Shia Hazara community and a policeman were killed in three attacks . After the attacks and subsequent violence, the administration called out Frontier Corps in the city. The paramilitaries started taking up positions at important places in the evening.
“Seven people were killed in firing on two vehicles on Brewery Road and Subzal Road. Saturday’s killings took the number of Hazara Shias killed in Quetta and its vicinity during the past fortnight to 26.

On April 3, Mr. Abdul Qudoos Ahmad (43), a well respected school teacher, belonging to the Ahmadiyya sect was tortured to death while in police custody in Chenab Nagar (the Ahmadi community refers to it by its old name of Rabwah), Punjab province. He was taken into custody by the police on 10 February 2012 and was kept in a private torture cell of the police until 26 March when his condition deteriorated due to the severe torture he endured. He remained in police custody for 35 days with any charges being laid against him and was not officially arrested. He was forced to confess to the murder of one, Muhammad Yousuf, a stamp-paper seller from the Nusrat Abad area who was murdered a few months earlier. During the illegal detention Mr. Qudoos was deprived from access to any the legal assistance was not provided.

On March 15, the Khushab district police officer has sought assistance from the Muttahida Ulema Board Punjab in a blasphemy case against two Shia clerics. The particulars of the FIR, a compact disc with recordings of allegedly blasphemous lectures by a Shia zakir and the legal opinion of the district public prosecutor have been sent to the board, Ghulam Murtaza, personal staff officer to the DPO, told The Express Tribune. Murtaza said the matter was referred to the board to ensure that the prosecution was in accordance with the law. The DPO’s reader said that in his written opinion the district public prosecutor had supported the insertion of Section 295 C (use of derogatory remarks, etc, in respect of the Holy Prophet) of the Pakistan Penal Code in the FIR registered on March 15 against Gorot resident Shuja Abbas and Multan resident Nasir Multani.

On February 23, Ms. Rinkle Kumari, (17), a Hindu girl living in Mirpur Mathelo; a small city of Sindh province and the daughter of a school teacher, was abducted on the night of 23 February by notorious gangsters of the area with the help of a member of the National Assembly from the ruling party and local Muslim fundamentalist groups. Following her abduction she was forced to embrace Islam. According to the information received, Naveed Shah, a member of a famous criminal group of Hassam Kalwarh, along with more than dozen persons abducted Kumari from her house on 23 February. They kidnapped her at gunpoint and took her to the resident of Mian Abdul Haq, alias Mian Mithhu, the member of the National Assembly from the ruling party, the Pakistan Peoples’ Party. She was then taken to a famous Madressa at Dargah Aalia Qadria Bharchoondi Sharif where she had forced to sign the marriage certificate (Nikkah Nama) and married with Naveed Shah, a street gangster. The Madressa is famous for converting Hindu girls in the province which claims that it has the target to convert 2000 Hindus every year to Islam.

On February 23, in Lahore a mob stormed the school where Saira Khokhar teaches in an attempt to abduct her after she was accused of burning a copy of the Qur’an. Asia News wrote; After Asia Bibi, another Christian woman has been targeted by Muslim fundamentalists because of allegations of blasphemy. Saira Khokhar, who teaches at the City Foundation School in Lahore, is accused of burning a copy of the Qur’an. However, the case is still shrouded in mystery. The school is run by a Christian NGO, City Foundation.

On January 29, a big gathering of more than 5000 persons, mainly from Madressas (Islamic seminaries) was held outside the place where members of Ahmadiyya community have their Mosque and other places like a hospital and library. The place of the protest gathering was not far away from the General Head Quarters of Pakistan and was addressed by none other than the leaders of the banned religious organizations who were declared as terrorist organizations. The leaders from Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Sipahe Sahaba addressed the rally. The rally was held to protest alleged land ‘encroachment’; the speakers used the occasion to demand that Ahmadis must stop religious activities such as proselytizing and worshipping. Participants carried flags of different religious parties, including some banned ones, and portraits of the self-confessed assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, who killed former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer

On January 26, five men were arrested for allegedly using offensive language against the companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in Kotri. According to the on-duty officer, the men wrote derogatory remarks on the walls of six bogies of Sukkur Express when it was at Kotri. Abid Hussain, Mohammad Hussain, Tasawar Hussain, Asghar Abbas and Mirza Hussain were brought to Karachi and arrested. According to the police, a score of members of the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat gathered at Cantt Station and staged a sit-in.

On January 27, there have been stories aplenty about extremist elements publicly punishing men who groom their facial hair in the far-flung tribal badlands of Pakistan. However, the practice has now been reported a little closer to home: At a school in Peshawar, where the institution’s administration suspended a student for trimming his beard too fine – or, to be more precise, for getting an “English cut”.

On January 7, in a mockery of the Blasphemy Law:  A man wrote that his name was ‘Jew Jurian’ on his national identity card form. The data entry clerk then assumed he was a Jew. Thus for the first time in the history of Computerised National Identity Cards (CNIC), a Pakistani was officially declared a Jew. The problem was that he was a Christian. The bigger problem for Jurian, as he told The Express Tribune, was that he was accused of being a Jew – and subsequently, through the twisted logic of twisted souls, of blasphemy. After thorough investigations, Jurian was released by the police, along with three others, in May 2003. Almost nine years later, he and his family still face death threats.But his two other friends were shot dead by the fundamentalists and he is hiding.

On January 3, the car owned by Mahesh Kumar, the former President of Press Club Hyderabad was attacked by three motor-cyclists while Mahesh was inside the club building. This is second time that Mahesh’s vehicle has been attacked by unknown people. From the pattern of the attacks, it seems this is the second warning issued to the journalist and this time the level of threat is higher than before. Mahesh’ colleagues believe that this might be the last warning for Mahesh Kumar before he will be personally harmed. Eight bullets holes were found at different places on the body of the car.

These cases all are well reflected in Pakistani society, particularly after the promulgation of section 295 (B) and 295 (C) of the blasphemy law during the regime of the military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq in 1980s.

Document Type : Article
Document ID : AHRC-ART-078-2012
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Freedom of religion,