PAKISTAN: A doctor is arrested on a blasphemy charge after the protest of multi-national companies 

The misuse of the blasphemy laws is not restricted only with the fundamentalist Muslim groups or leaders but is being misused by multinational pharmaceutical companies as well. They take advantage of the law when they are not happy with doctors that do not prescribe their pharmaceuticals. This relatively new misuse of the blasphemy laws was applied on a practicing doctor who is well known in the community for not over prescribing medicines to his patients but rather advising them to rely on the body’s natural resistance and exercise.

The Cantt police of Hyderabad, Sindh province have arrested a practicing doctor, Naushad Valyani, on charges of committing blasphemy at the protest demonstration by the medical representatives of different pharmaceutical multi-national companies. Dr. Valyani belongs to a Aghakhani Muslim community. They are followers of Prince Abdul Karim Agha Khan. The incident was held during the second week of December, when a medical representative of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Mohammad Faizan, visited the doctor. As the doctor was busy in his usual practice he put the business card of the medical representative in a box on the side of his table. When Faizan realised that the doctor was not going to entertain him he left the doctor’s room shouting that he had committed blasphemy by throwing his business card in a dustbin. His reasoning was that the business card contained the name of the Prophet Mohammad (Peace be Upon Him).

On hearing the shouting people gathered at the door of the clinic and the doctor explained that he had not, in fact, placed the card in the dustbin but rather in a box on the side of his table. The people were satisfied with the explanation and left. But on December 10 the medical representatives of different pharmaceutical companies, including multi-national companies, arranged a protest demonstration demanding the arrest of the doctor on charges of blasphemy. In the demonstration, it was reported that there were some high officials of the multi-national companies who also participated and forced the police to lodge a First Information Report (FIR) against him.

The Cantt police, without following the legal process of the blasphemy laws, quickly arrested the doctor and sealed off his clinic. According to the law no police officer below the rank of Superintendent of Police (SP) may investigate blasphemy charges. The Cantt police have, however, appointed a junior police officer, an Assistant Sub Inspector of Police (ASI) to investigate the case.

It is worth pointing out that every single day newspapers, magazines and books are discarded due to damage or for recycling and many of them contain the name of the Prophet and also Quaranic verses. Are we then led to believe that the people that do this are also desecrating the name of Mohammad (PBUH) and Allah?

Civil society has been striving for two decades to repeal the blasphemy laws that are frequently misused by vested interests and the extremist Muslim groups. However, every government, whether military or civilian, have been happy to retain the blasphemy laws for political expediency to appease the Muslim fundamentalists. It has now come to the stage where multi-national companies have started misusing the blasphemy laws just for the promotion of their products. This now sounds alarm bells and reinforces the call to repeal the Blasphemy laws. This would ensure that the country is run on the rule of law and this in turn will promote tranquility among the different sects and professional groups.

If the multi-national companies want to distance themselves from this situation then they should join in the call for the prosecution of the representatives of any multi-national that uses the blasphemy laws to further their company’s nefarious designs and the withdrawal of the case against the doctor.

The government must immediately release the doctor and take action against the multi-national pharmaceutical companies for abusing the Blasphemy laws for their own vested interests. Action must also be taken against the police officials for arresting the doctor without fulfilling the requirements of the law. The AHRC warns the authorities that if the misuse of blasphemy laws is not stopped there are very grave chances that nobody in the country would be free of the fear of being charged. If this happens there would be a sectarian catastrophe in Pakistan.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-257-2010
Countries : Pakistan,
Campaigns : Blasphemy Law in Pakistan
Issues : Freedom of religion,