A tele-evangelist, poison in the body politic and murder most foul

Online petition to AamirLiaquat accountableI recently wrote ‘Poison in the body politic’ on the persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan, the hate-speech against them in public spaces and the impunity their attackers enjoy. One of the people I spoke to was Farooq Kahloun, an Ahmadi leader and successful businessman in Karachi who had left everything behind in Pakistan and taken political asylum in the USA after a murderous attempt on his life that left his son Saad Farooq dead two years ago. Four bullets still lodged in Kahloun’s body are a permanent reminder of the attack (details below) — and of the poison in Pakistan’s body politic, the menace of takfirismContinue reading

Pakistan needs #ruleoflaw. Arrest and punish those who murder and those who incite violence

Shama Shehzad and daughter

Upd Shama and Shehzad with one of their daughters, in front of a tropical backdrop. How dare they aspire for a better life?

Update: For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the state has become the plaintiff in a case involving murder due to alleged blasphemy. Let this be the start of a new era where no one dare attack or kill anyone on such a pretext again. Let the rule of law prevail, and religion not be used to cover up heinous crimes.

The vicious cycle continues in the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”. It will not end unless the ‘takfiri’ (declaring someone a non-Muslim) ideology and justifying murder for alleged ‘blasphemy’ are not curbed. Once again a violent mob incited by calls from mosque pulpits has killed on the basis of such allegations. Once again the motive was not ‘religious’ but financial (as often happens). Rule of law MUST be imposed and the culprits caught, charged, tried and punished. Enough of this culture of impunity for crimes committed in the name of religion. This time it was a poor young couple – read Asif Aqeel’s comprehensive account of Shama and Shehzad, brick-kiln workers, lynched after being accused of ‘desecrated’ pages of the Quran (she was pregnant, they leave behind four children including a baby). Fifty people have been arrested. The next day, in another city, a policeman axed to death a man brought into custody after being arrested for a brawl – his justification: the man had been committed “blasphemy”. The policeman has been arrested. Below: Society for Secular Pakistan’s demand that  clerics involved in hate speech be arrested and punished for inciting religious feeling.

The cycle will continue because no one is ever punished for either false allegations, or for their involvement in the criminal act of extra-judicial murder, although laws exist against both. The ‘blasphemy’ laws of Pakistan are not divinely ordained. These are man-made laws, imposed on Pakistan by a military dictator. Gen Ziaul Haq added various clauses to the original Article 295 of the British law (shared by India and Bangladesh) that dealt with injuring religious sentiment. While criminalising other aspects of ‘injuring religious sentiment’, the critical words ‘malicious intent’ were quietly dropped. ‘Intent’ or ‘neeyat‘ is crucial when someone is accused of such crimes. If the intent was not to defile or injure religious sentiments, there is no case. It’s time to openly debate these issues and stop this senseless violence. Even if someone burnt some pages of the Quran, that is not grounds to kill them.  Continue reading

Human rights: Pakistan’s Ahmadis Faced with Death or Exile

Saad-Farooq

Saad Farooq, 26, shot dead in Karachi. “In Karachi, people are being killed every day. Doctors, professors, not just Ahmadis but also Shias and others,” says his father Farooq Kahloun, who still has four bullets in his body.

By Beena Sarwar

BOSTON, Oct 20 2014 (IPS) – Two years ago, gunmen shot dead Farooq Kahloun’s newly married son Saad Farooq, 26, in an attack that severely injured Kahloun, his younger son Ummad, and Saad’s father-in-law, Choudhry Nusrat.

Saad died on the spot. In Pakistan after travelling from his home in New York for the wedding, Nusrat died in hospital later. Four bullets remain in Kahloun’s chest and arm. A bullet lodged behind the right eye of Ummad, a student in the UK, was surgically removed months later (See his interview with BBC, while the bullet was still inside).

As an Ahmadi leader in his locality, Kahloun knew he was a target for hired assassins in the bustling but lawless metropolis of Karachi. General insecurity in Pakistan is multiplied manifold if you are, like Kahloun, an Ahmadi – a sect of Islam that many orthodox Muslims abhor as heretic.

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Pakistan court upholds death penalty for Asia Bibi despite serious legal loopholes in trial

"Blasphemy: The True, Heart-Breaking Story Of The Woman Sentenced To Death Over A Cup Of Water by Asia Bibi" - related by French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet (Virago, London, 2012)

“Blasphemy: The True, Heart-Breaking Story Of The Woman Sentenced To Death Over A Cup Of Water by Asia Bibi” – related by French journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet (Virago, London, 2012)

Pakistani Christian Aasia Bibi had an argument with some coworkers over drinking water in 2009. The argument turned into a religious one and she was accused of blasphemy against Islam. Two politicians have been killed for standing up for her. She was convicted in Nov. 2010 and yesterday her appeal was rejected by the appellate court. Legal arguments in this story, published in Worldwatch Monitor, October 17, 2014, reproduced below (emphasis added). Also see The dangers of ignoring ‘malicious intent’ while accusing of ‘injuring religious sentiments’:

By Asif Aqeel

The first Christian woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws had her appeal rejected by the High Court in Lahore on Thursday.

Aasiya Noreen, commonly known as Asia Bibi, received the death penalty in 2010 after she allegedly made derogatory comments about the Prophet Mohammed during an argument with a Muslim woman.

While the two women were working together, the Muslim woman had refused water from Noreen on the grounds that it was unclean because it had been handled by a Christian.

The Muslim woman, together with her sister, were the only two witnesses in the case, but the defence failed to convince the appeals judges that their evidence lacked credibility.

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Pakistan’s Nobel Laureates – united by the tragedy of militancy

My article for Scroll.in today about how “Takfiri” thinking drove physicist Abdus Salam out of the country, and keeps Malala Yusufzai away from her home. 

Malala: "I decided that I would speak up. Through my story I want to tell other children all around the world they should stand up for their rights"

Malala: “I decided that I would speak up. Through my story I want to tell other children all around the world they should stand up for their rights”

There is no escaping the irony that the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 has gone jointly to two child rights advocates from Pakistan and India – 17-year old Malala Yousafzai and 60-year old Kailash Satyarthi — while the armies of their countries trade bullets and kill innocents across the Line of Control in Kashmir. Continue reading

Rashid Rehman and the “media campaign by vampires”…

Khabrain2-April21-2014 On April 21 evening, Supreme Court advocate Rashid Rehman Khan in Multan sent this note below to an email list with the subject line, “media campaign by vampires”. He included scans of a report in that day’s daily Khabrain about a press conference by Tehrik-e-Tahafuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat (Movement to Protect the Honour of the Prophethood), where speakers objected to his attempts to move the case of a ‘blasphemy’ accused teacher whom he was defending, out of Multan. It was also after a media campaign against him that the Governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer was murdered.

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A quiet hero. RIP Rashid Rehman Khan

Rashid Rehman- screenshot from Mukhtiar Mai documentaryHeard the terrible news a few hours ago that the courageous Multan-based advocate Rashid Rehman Khan of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has been shot dead in Multan. Criminal cowards barged into his chamber and opened fire, killing him and injuring two others. He had been under threat for some time for defending a blasphemy accused, but refused to back down. More ominously, no protection was provided to him – although given the climate in Pakistan, any lawyer taking up a blasphemy case should be given 24-hour protection. Continue reading

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