PAKISTAN: The madness of Blasphemy accusation continues; a police inspector kills a man with an axe

Blasphemy law has become a lethal weapon against the freedom of religion and faith and also the freedom of expression

An Assistant Sub Inspector of Police murdered a detained man, from Shia sect of Islam, with an axe during interrogation and later alleged the man had committed blasphemy. The incident occurred in Lala Musa, in the Punjab Province, where the government officially condones banned, sectarian organisations that demand the killing of alleged blasphemers.

The latest incident comes two days after a Christian couple was burnt to death in a brick kiln in Kot Radha Kishan, Kasur district, also in the Punjab Province for allegedly desecrating pages of the Holy Quran. The woman, mother of three, was pregnant at the time.

On 6th November 2014, a police Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI), Faraz Naveed who was appointed as investigation officer (I.O.) in the arrest of the accused as a result of a brawl, has killed him with an axe after hitting him on his neck several times. The 45-year-old victim from Jhang, Punjab, Syed Tufail Haider was arrested a day earlier for wounding two others in  brawl in the locality of Gujrat.

The victim Tufail Haider Naqvi had arrived in Madina Syedan in Gujrat District three days earlier to attend a Majlis – a religious congregation of the Shia sect. During the interrogations, the ASI, had instigated a heated argument with Tufail and later struck him on the neck with an axe, killing him instantly. The police inspector later accused Tufail for making derogatory remarks against companions of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.O.H), with other police officials saying the arrested man was mentally unsound.

No case has been registered against the arrested policeman. Meanwhile, District Police Officer (DPO) Rai Ejaz suspended Amir Malik, the Station House Officer (SHO) the Civil Line policed station in Gujrat for negligence, while police have reportedly arrested the accused policeman.

It was very common in the country that religious leaders incite people through a mere loudspeaker announcement from the mosque and this is done on mere instructions from affluent persons in the area, or from land grabbers demanding that the alledged blasphemers be killed. Most such allegations are levelled particularly against non-Muslim minority groups. However in this instance the police officer, is hiding behind allegations of blasphemy to escape allegations of torturing the accused while in custody. There is no evidence that victim did commit any blasphemy during the interrogation since the ASI was alone in the room at the time of the interrogation and he was assigned to obtain a confessional statement from the accused. The local police in Gujrat District are stating now that ASI was a mentally disturbed person in order to escape responsibility for the murder.

Religious fanaticism has seeped in to the law enforcement agencies because of the government’s indifferent attitude towards the increasing violence committed under the guise of Islam. The former Governor of Punjab, while he was officially performing his duties, was gunned downed by a policeman, who was a member of his own security cordon. The governor was against the misuse of blasphemy accusation and was speaking out for the rights of a Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, also accused of committing blasphemy in a minor dispute with several other the Muslim women in her neighbourhood – for just touching a glass of water.

In another incident a policeman, Mumtaz Qadri, an elite force policeman jailed for murdering the Punjab governor Salman Taseer, in a religiously-motivated attack incited the prison guards to shoot the elderly British man also convicted of blasphemy. The elderly British man with severe mental illness, sentenced to death for blasphemy in January, was shot by a prison guard last month. Qadri has become a hero of religious fundamentalists and the government has provided him with full impunity and freed him from prison to incite the prisoners to kill the alleged blasphemers. He is now being treated as a weapon of the state to purify the country from alleged blasphemers.

Blasphemy law has become a lethal weapon for converting the country into a conservative and theocratic society and in allowing religious groups to decide on the streets who is pure and who is not. The continuous misuse of the law has narrowed down the freedom of religion and faith and also the freedom of expression all of which is well-suited to the agenda of the present government’s security establishment and has completely frustrated any attempts at allowing a civilian government to do away with this piece of draconian law.

A lawyer from Multan and prominent human rights defender, Mr Rashid Rehman, was murdered on 9th May 2014 for defending the case of a professor who was accused of blasphemy. The sadder part of the story is that he was threatened before a judge, inside the courtroom itself, during the hearing that he must withdraw himself from the case otherwise he will not remain alive for the next hearing—and this was done, but no action has been taken against the judge who allowed the death threats to be levelled inside the court room.

The government’s inability to take action in the case of Rashid Rehman against also a judge and those lawyers who have threatened has provided the fundamentalist groups with freedom for the misuse of the blasphemy law.

The Asian Human Rights Commission urges the government to immediately amend the blasphemy law and repeal Clauses A and B from the Section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code. Procedures must also be laid down anew to mete out rigorous punishment for attacks and killing of innocent citizens on accusations of blasphemy, without due investigation and due process of law.  The Police officer who killed the accused person in custody must be tried on the murder charges. Strong action against the Government of Punjab must be taken for promoting and patronizing fundamentalist who use blasphemy – to meet their ulterior motives, motives which have reached madding proportions.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-192-2014
Countries : Pakistan,
Campaigns : Blasphemy Law in Pakistan
Issues : Extrajudicial killings, Freedom of expression, Freedom of religion, Impunity,