PAKISTAN: Education officials of Karachi must be prosecuted for filing a blasphemy case against a student 

A case of blasphemy has been registered against 17-year-old Syed Samiullah, an intermediate student and resident of Mujtaba Colony Malir Halt. The charge was registered in the Shahrah-e-Noor Jahan Police Station, Karachi, Sindh province.

The incident was reported to the police by Professor Agha Akbar, the controller of examinations of the Intermediate Board of Education, Karachi, who attached copies of Samiullah’s answers sheets as evidence of his alleged blasphemy. The professor charged that Samiullah wrote derogatory remarks in his answer sheets (Urdu, Islamiat and Physics) against the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him).

He was arrested on January 28, 2011 on the complaint of the chief controller (Intermediate Board).

The Judicial Magistrate, Central, Ehsan A Malik ordered Samiullah to be sent to the juvenile prison after the Shahrae Noor Jehan police produced him in court and requested judicial custody. In an application to the judicial magistrate, Samiullah submitted that he had confessed to committing the ‘unpardonable sin’. He apologised and promised that he would never commit ‘such a sin’ again. An FIR (First Information Report) (56/11) was registered against him under 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) at Shahrah-e-Noor Jahan police station.

In Pakistan militant Muslim organisations are using the blasphemy law as the best way to keep the society under their influence and conservative doctrines. Due to the continuous indifference of the government and the authorities towards militant expression of power by the Muslim fundamentalists the malicious use of the blasphemy law has swiftly seeped in to the educational institutions.

The appeasement policy of the state towards the Muslim fundamentalists has now reached an alarming stage in that the opinion of the students can be judged using blasphemy as the rule. It is condemnable that the institutions which are aimed at providing education free of bias are obstructing the freedom of expression of the students. It is a very dangerous sign for the positive growth of the society that the teachers are also using the blasphemy law to pressurize the students and suppress their opinions.

This is also a clear demonstration of intimidation aimed at the student community in regard of their freedom of choice to answer examination papers through their own understanding of the subject. The student, Samiullah, and his family, were pressurised by the malicious intent by the Board of Education, Karachi to confess that he had committed blasphemy. Samiullah had no other choice other than to confess after seeing the murder of a governor due to the fake charges of blasphemy and the glorification of his murderer by the religious organisations.

Examiners only have the right to pass or fail students based on the answers they give to the exam papers. They have not right what-so-ever to grade, fail or take action on exam papers which they feel are contrary to their religious ideals. Neither do they have the right to instigate criminal action against students based on these papers or against the student’s point of view or opinions.

In this instance, the Board of Education is using the blasphemy law to intimidate and threaten a student for daring to form his own opinions. By filing a criminal case the officials of the Education Board are trying to control the mentality of the society and push the students towards the Militant Muslim organisations. They are utilising the people to think in this way, that if someone commits such a crime, he should be killed.

In a country where the literacy rate is below 40 percent (that includes those persons who can read or write their names and make signatures) the filing of fake cases of blasphemy against students to stop them from expressing their own views is nothing less than a criminal offence on the part of those who are supposed to be providing education to the society.

It is also an established fact that the examination copy on which a student answers the questions on a particular subject based on his personal knowledge, is confidential and no one has the right to make it public or use it to file a case. In a very explicit manner the Board of Education has breached the bond of trust and confidentiality between the students and examiners.

The government must take serious note of the actions of the Board of Education, Karachi, and prosecute the responsible officials for misusing the blasphemy laws against a student on a issue which was totally a matter of opinion on the subject which he understood according to his knowledge. The case of blasphemy against the student should be withdrawn immediately and he should be released from the custody of the juvenile jail so that he can continue his education in an environment free of intimidation and threats. In any case it is the responsibility of the government to provide an environment conducive to education free of religious and sectarian bias.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-022-2011
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Freedom of religion,