For the past 30 years blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad has been punishable by death in Pakistan. But no-one has been executed.
There have been 1,549 known cases of the most serious charges – either blasphemy against Muhammad or desecration of the Koran – according to Pakistan’s Centre for Social Justice.
Mob Justice for Blasphemers
In blasphemy cases, 75 accused people have been murdered before their trials. Many were killed in police custody, or by mobs.
Religious identity of those accused (1987-2017) Source: Centre for Social Justice, Pakistan.
Mob injustice on Pakistanis Minorities
- Christian Couple
In 2014, heinous crime was done in name of blasphemy in the small town of Kot Radha Kishan, (named after two Hindu gods) which is almost 30 miles south of the city of Lahore,Pakistan.
The beautiful Kot Radha Kishan town has lush flat green fields and after every half a mile or so, are the tall smoking chimneys of brick kilns in every direction. And, hundreds of thousands of bricks are stacked up in rows.
Shahzad and Shama Maseeh, a happily Christian couple who were accused of blasphemy worked in one of kilns but this couple were burned alive by a mob in 2014.
Rana Khalid, the local journalist summarizes the events in his report that led to the brutal killing of couple.
He points towards a small structure close to the brick kiln. “The couple were locked up in this room so they could be protected from the mob,” he says.
But hardliner local mosque cleric led and aggravate the mob angry and order the angry mob to climb on top of the roof. The mob broke their way in through the ceiling and dragged the couple out.
Rana Khalid stated “The couple were brutally beaten by clubs and bricks and dragged by the angry men of the village to the brick kiln and were thrown inside. Most horrific is that Shama was four months pregnant.”
Reason the couple were murdered is Blasphemy Law. The mob believed that Shahzad and Shama had deliberately burned several pages of the Koran, along with some rubbish”. Till date Shahzad’s family denied the fact saying that the couple were burning some of his father’s old documents.
- Ahmadi Man
It’s not only Christians who bear the brunt of the country’s controversial law. It has also been used to persecute Pakistan’s Ahmadi Muslims. The community is regarded by the government as a non-Muslim religious minority. By law, Ahmadis cannot call their places of worship mosques or recite from the Koran or display their faith in public in any way.
Aslam Jameel (not his real name), an Ahmadi farmer, was working in his wheat fields in the south of Punjab in 2009, when he was approached by a couple of local villagers and told him to run away and save himself.
Aslam crime was that he had been accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad by a local imam and a mob was after him.
Aslam with his tears choked voice stated that “God Forbid, He had been alleged by the cleric that he prompted four Ahmadi boys to write the prophet’s name in a toilet,” says Aslam, his voice choked with tears.
He was in such distress that Aslam waited until after dark before sneaking out of his back door and making a run. After realizing that where he will run away and in-fact running away would probably land him in even more trouble, Aslam handed himself in at a local police station the next morning.
His case took almost two years is case to go to trial, and he spent six months in prison.
At final judgment Aslam with his flushed face mentioned that “The judge was under immense pressure” . “The judge showed great courage to dismiss his case due to lack of evidence despite the fact that the courtroom was full of clerics.”
Aslam has lost everything when he was in jail and found his house looted and his livestock stolen. Finally he sought asylum in Canada.
Aslam in grieving voice stated to BBC that “My family was threatened and harassed, my life and livelihood ruined, we had to abandon the village to save our lives.”
Another Ahmadi, Shakeel Wajid (not his real name), in trembling voice said that furious mobs gather during trials in courts which is very frightening for them and their families.
Also, the lower court judges are under intense pressure from religious extremists than the higher courts judges as these hardcore extremists, gather in large numbers during the hearings,”. Shakeel further explains. “The lower court judges have very poor security and have to look out for their own lives as well.”
After being found guilty under false pretext of blasphemy, Shakeel spent two years in three different high security prisons in Punjab.
Shakeel describes how blasphemy prisoners are kept in separate, high-security barracks, often with mentally ill prisoners. Blasphemy accused trials or prisoners are kept locked in their cells for their own safety and are often banned from eating with the other inmates as officials are afraid that other non-blasphemy serving criminals attempts to poison them.
After serving his prison term Shakeel believed that he was exceptionally lucky that he was able to get his freedom back. But more worrying to him was to get his name cleared of the allegation.
In Pakistan the label of blasphemer is much worse than the fear of death. It’s considered such a serious accusation that no one want to die with it. Every accused blasphemer wanted his name to be cleared so his family could survive with dignity in the society.
Not only lower income earning minorities are victims of Blasphemy Law but highly educated minorities class are also victim of blasphemy. One such example is of university professor from Rawalpindi. His crime was that one of his student didn’t agree with professor’s interpretation of ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ and lodged a blasphemy complaint against him.