Another wave of blasphemy in Pakistan

The Supreme Court of Pakistan. Image via Wikipedia by Uroojmirza71. CC BY-SA-4.0

The Supreme Court of Pakistan. Image via Wikipedia by Uroojmirza71. CC BY-SA-4.0

Once again, blasphemy accusations made headlines in Pakistan. This time, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court (SC) came under fire on social media after he ordered the immediate release of a man from the Ahmadiyya sect being detained as part of a blasphemy case.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in the 97 percent Muslim-majority South Asian nation, where it is punishable by death according to Pakistani laws.

The Ahmadiyya community follow the teachings of Mirzā Ghulām Ahmad, their founder, who they consider the last Messiah. This contradicts a core tenant of Islam as followed by the majority Sunni Muslims who believe that “the Prophet Mohammad was God’s last direct messenger.” Since 1973, the Pakistani government declared the Ahmadiyya minority (0.22 percent of the total population) “non-muslim” by an amendment in the 1973 constitution of Pakistan.

Not an offence

On December 6, 2022, a report was registered against an Ahmadiyya man at the Chenab Nagar police station in the Chiniot district of Punjab, Pakistan. He was imprisoned for disseminating a proscribed book, which, according to law, was an offence under the Punjab Holy Quran (Printing and Recording) (Amendment) Act of 2021. According to the report, the accused had violated the law in 2019 when the distribution of the book was not an offence. The man was arrested in January 2023 and released on February 6, 2024.

The order by the Supreme Court also affirms that everyone is free to practice their belief as per the Quran; this attracted significant backlash from extremist elements, including followers of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf, Pakistan's current opposition party. An organized smear campaign was launched against CJP on X (formerly known as Twitter).

Waves of hatred

In his video, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, a religious political figure, stated:

Chief Justice Qazi Faiz Isa's decision to allow Qadianis (Ahmadiyyas) to propagate their religion is against Sharia, the Constitution, and the law, which we publicly reject. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam has decided to file an appeal against this decision after consulting layers.

In this video shared by user Ibraheem, a man is seen openly condemning the CJP's decision and threatening to kill any person belonging to the Ahmadi belief.

There were other people who condemned the smear campaign against the CJP.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan asked the government of Pakistan to restrain the hate campaign against the CJP:

Lawyer and feminist Nighat Dad said:

The hate for the Ahmadiyya community is not new, but this is the first time a judge of the top court has been made a target. To settle the matter, the Supreme Court condemned the smear campaign and issued a clarification statement notifying people that if they disagree with the decision, they can challenge it via legal avenues. The caretaker government of Punjab challenged the decision in SC.

Lahore blasphemy incident:

As discussions on the issue continued across the country, another case of blasphemy accusation unfolded in Lahore, the capital of Punjab. In the Ichra clothes market in Lahore, an angry mob was ready to lynch a woman because she wore a dress with Arabic letters on it. The mob alleged that the dress contained Quranic verses (Islamic holy scripture). Assistant Superintendent of Police Shehr Bano Naqvi intervened and placed the woman under protective custody.

This video shows how the woman was harassed and was hiding inside a shop belonging to a minority community.

The Punjab police tweeted about the incident, highlighting that Naqvi risked her life to rescue the woman who was surrounded by the angry mob. They also requested that the Pakistani government honour the Assistant Superintendent with an award.

Subsequently, in an attempt to resolve the issue, the accused woman recorded an apology for wearing the dress. However, despite the accolades Naqvi received for rescuing the woman, she also faced severe criticism for facilitating the recording of the apology. Furthermore, female officers from the Punjab police organized an awareness walk to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. Additionally, a report was also registered against those who harassed the woman to ensure that such occurrences are not repeated.

Calligraphy art on clothes:

Arabic letters are widely used globally, especially in the Middle East and Asia, where it is utilized for writing holy scriptures. In addition to letters, art, and scripture, this font has also been adopted for writing words or messages on clothing. The dress worn by the lady was from a brand called Semplicitakw in Kuwait. However, following the incident, the brand was inundated with hate messages from Pakistan. In response, they released a statement and defended their product, saying, “We use arabic words and letters in different fonts everywhere since its our language!”

A renowned Pakistani brand, Manto, recognized for incorporating poetry and phrases in calligraphic font onto clothing, also issued a post urging their customers to exercise caution in light of the recent incident:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Manto Store (@wearmanto)

Blasphemy cases in Pakistan:

According to recent findings by the Human Rights Observer of the Centre for Social Justice, there have been at least 329 individuals accused under blasphemy laws, with 180 reported cases. Among the accused, 247 were Muslims, 65 were Ahmadiyyas, 11 were Christians, and one was Hindu, while the religious affiliation of five accused individuals remains unknown.

Following the Chief Justice's directive to release the Ahmadiyya individual, the Sindh High Court halted the conviction of Professor Notan Lal Das due to insufficient evidence. Meanwhile, a Punjab student received a death sentence verdict for sharing blasphemous content on WhatsApp.

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