Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, a Pakistani federal lawmaker, recently announced a bounty of US$ 200,000 to anyone who would kill the owner of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for publishing ‘blasphemous’ cartoons.
Bilour did so on the floor of the National Assembly during a debate over the recent attack on Shia mosque in Sikarpur, Sindh, that killed almost 60 people. He is a senior lawmaker of opposition Awami National Party (ANP) from Kyber-Pakhtoonkhwa — a province hit by violence in the recent past. His party ANP claims to follow secular and liberal values and has lost many members of the party in Pakistan's war against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and other armed and violent groups. Earlier in 2012, Bilour offered US$ 100,000 head money for the maker of the low-budget anti-Muslim film on YouTube ‘Innocence of Muslims’.
In his speech in the National Assembly on February 2, Bilour announced that he is ready to offer an additional US$ 100,000 bounty money to the heirs of the three men who carried out the attacks in Paris and were killed in confrontations with French police — two murdered Charlie Hebdo's editor and other cartoonists, while the other laid siege to a Jewish supermarket in Paris. The three men killed seventeen people over the course of days.
One of Pakistan's leading English-language dailies Dawn called it “Bilour's publicity stunt: a reward for the heirs of Charlie Hebdo attackers”.
An editorial in another English newspaper, The Express Tribune, pointed out that:
At a time when the rest of the world is debating the spread of extremism and discrimination, and rethinking assimilation of Muslims, a Pakistani parliamentarian is inciting murder.
According to legal experts, the blasphemy-related provisions in the Pakistan Penal Code do not allow calling for any bounty — punishment has to be administered by the state. If Bailour threatens or harasses someone, he can, however, be prosecuted under criminal law and also be sued in civil law for damages.
$200,000 is a big amount in Pakistan and many Pakistanis are wondering where that bounty money would come from. Bilour's tax returns shows that he doesn't even own that much money.
Omar R. Quraishi is the editor of The Express Tribune:
MNA Ghulam Ahmad Bilour has offered a $200,000 (Rs 2 crores) bounty for the owner of Charlie Hebdo – in 2013 he paid Rs 40,698 in tax
— omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi) February 3, 2015
Bilour family owns an infamous Shama cinema in Peshawar. This cinema is known for running pornographic films in the heart of city. Despite the horrific massacre of students at an army school in Peshawar by members of the Pakistani Taliban in December 2014, it never lost audience and every show is a full house.
Abbas Nasir, the former editor of Dawn and a columnist, sarcastically tweeted referring to Peshawar's underground porn cinema or totas:
I think Bilour Sb should also offer a bounty for Peshawar cinema owners who do the un-Islamic thing and run ‘totas’ in their shows.
— Abbas Nasir (@abbasnasir59) February 3, 2015
Bilour's Awami National Party or ANP follows the teachings of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, affectionately known to his people as Baacha Khan — a devout Muslim who was follower of Gandhi and preached peace and non-violence as his guiding principles.
Yasser Latif Hamdani, a human rights activist and lawyer, questioned the party policy on this:
ANP Wallahs please explain this: http://t.co/vJX0PQPfNU – whither your “non-violence” your “secularism”?
— Yasser Latif Hamdani (@theRealYLH) February 4, 2015
It is hard to tell if this is a PR stunt or a call from a good Muslim. There is no condemnation from other members of parliament or the ANP about Bilour's statement. Blasphemy laws in Pakistan carry the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam, the Prophet Muhammad or his family. Approximately 1,274 people have been charged under the blasphemy laws of Pakistan between 1986 until 2010.