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Cases under blasphemy laws against PTI leadership widely condemned

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Was the Masjid-e-Nabwi incident an orchestrated event? This is what several people had asked at the time. Now it is being questioned whether the cases registered against the PTI leaders are the result of hurt religious sentiments or an organized campaign against the former ruling party.

Social media users and human rights activists have widely condemned the two cases that have been registered against the top leadership of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) following the incident that took place in Masjid-e-Nabwi recently, saying that such acts will have dangerous consequences if allowed.

The cases registered against senior PTI leaders under S. 295-A must be withdrawn immediately. No government or political party can afford to allow allegations of blasphemy to be weaponised against its rivals.

The first case was registered in Faisalabad, against Chairman and former Prime Minister Imran Khan, under Sections 295 (harming or defiling a place of worship with intent to insult a religion), 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 296 (disturbing religious assembly) and 109 (abetment) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

According to information on the FIR, the case was registered by one Muhammad Naeem son of Amin Musarrat in Faisalabad, and in the complaint, filed on Saturday, April 30, he has nominated Fawad Chaudhry, Shahbaz Gill, Qasim Suri, Sahibzada Jahangir, Aneel Musarrat, Sheikh Rashid Shafiq who is the nephew of former interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

The complaint says that the sloganeering and harassment of the government representatives at Masjid-i-Nabwi was carried out under a “planned and thought out scheme and conspiracy” and that his claim was supported substantially by viral videos on social media along with speeches made by some PTI leaders.

He wrote in the complaint that there had been an organized conspiracy by the PTI leaders after which a ‘delegation’ travelled to Saudi Arabia.

The second case was registered on Sunday May 1, against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan and Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid by Qazi Muhammad Tariq Advocate at New Airport Police Station on the matter of the desecration of Masjid-e-Nabwi by inappropriate behaviour and chanting of slogans in the premises of the holy place.

The case nominates former Prime Minister Imran Khan, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Fawad Chaudhry, Shahbaz Gill, and Murad Saeed.

The case details that a group of miscreants headed by Sheikh Rashid was sent to Saudi Arabia, adding that the second group from Britain was headed by Sahibzada Jahangir and included Aneel Musarrat, Nabeel Musarrat, Rana Abdul Sattar, Amir Ilyas, Ejaz Haq and Gohar Jilani.

Meanwhile, an application for the registration of a case against Imran Khan and Sheikh Rashid has also been submitted at the Margalla police station, Islamabad.

The application says that the PTI workers in Saudi Arabia have violated the sanctity of Masjid-e-Nabwi and that the whole affair was pre-planned in Pakistan by Sheikh Rashid. It said that a case should be registered against him.

This application was filed by a citizen named Muhammad Nawaz Bhatti seeking registration of the aforementioned case.

Meanwhile on Sunday, Sheikh Rashid Ahmad’s nephew MNA Rashid Shafique was arrested by the government as soon as his plane landed at the New Islamabad International Airport, and Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah hinted that former prime minister Imran Khan could also be arrested.

FIRs a government ploy or hurt religious sentiment?

Was the Masjid-e-Nabwi incident an orchestrated event? This is what several people had asked at the time. Now it is being questioned whether the cases registered against the PTI leaders are the result of hurt religious sentiments or an organized campaign against the former ruling party.

Eyebrows are being raised regarding the involvement of Rana Sanullah, the federal Interior Minister, who reportedly ordered the removal of an SP recently, under whose jurisdiction falls PS Madina Town where the FIR was registered. Was the ground being readied for a charge sheet against PTI?

In the meantime little else is known about the complainant Muhammad Naeem who identifies himself as a ‘common citizen’. Several attempts to contact him failed as his number was turned off. It was not ascertained whether Naeem has ever filed any other petition before.

Nida Aly, lawyer and Executive Director of the Asma Jahangir Legal Aid Cell says that either situation could be true and that the allegation of the petitioner following orders of a senior Minister was problematic if true.

“However with Blasphemy – which is a very sensitive topic in Pakistan, it is entirely possible that this could be action taken by someone whose religious sentiments were hurt,” she says. “It is always a very sentimental issue in Pakistan. The point to be noted is that every government or political party uses the ‘Blasphemy card’ to their convenience. But when it comes and hits them squarely in the face that is when they realize its wrong.”

Instead of protecting against any kind of misuse of the blasphemy law, the government stood along the FIR. Rana Sanaullah tweeted:

‘No partiality or high handedness’

In a press conference on Sunday evening, federal minister of Interior Rana Sanaullah, and Minister of Law Azam Nazeer Tarar spoke about the case registered and assured that there would be no interference by the government in the matter except to ensure that everything goes according to law.

“We are not in favour of the government becoming partisan to any legal procedure, but if someone’s sentiments are hurt in this manner, and that person is trying to take the course of law, instead of against the law, we will not stand in the way.”

He said that the case would be investigated on basis of merit and in accordance with the law. If it is thought the incident was orchestrated, then due action will be taken.

“However what was disappointing was that instead of being condemned by the concerned people, it was being condoned through tweets. No action will be taken against anyone who is not involved. Those who are nominated should come and prove they were not involved.”

Rana Sanaullah said that Imran Khan had tried to use Islam and religion to leverage his own personal advantages. “To date, no one has called any kind of protest or jalsa on Chaand Raat, and this is detrimental to the occasion. On this day people should be forgiving each other. I urge to let politics remain politics, and do not take it to the extent of religious sentiments,” he said.

Meanwhile Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar said that first of all because it was not registered in the capital city, it was a provincial matter.

“To those who are questioning the legality of the FIR, under Section 3 and  of the PPC and Section 180 to 188 of CrPC even if a Pakistani citizen carries out an act violative of Pakistan’s laws, outside of the country, there can be prosecution case registered against him or her anywhere in Pakistan.

“There is no such clause in these cases, which come under “tauheen-e-risalat“,” said Tarar. “The clauses invoked are regarding harming or defiling a place of worship with intent to insult a religion, deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs, disturbing religious assembly – these are old laws, this is not just meant for mosques, but for any sacred place.”

He said this was not the first time such a case was registered.

“There are all kinds of people in Pakistan with different beliefs and mindsets. It is the government’s job to strike a balance, and ensure the law is being followed.

I stood with Asma Jahangir for 20 years, and so I will be the last man to silently watch any human rights violation. I can never allow that to happen. I myself will ascertain there is impartiality.”

‘Such things happen everyday’

Human rights lawyer Asad Jamal expressed his disappointment the way the Government dealt with the case, saying that it was an exaggeration to say that they could not stand in the way of someone’s sentiments being hurt as this was a daily problem in Pakistan.

“Mostly this is about bad behaviour rather than blasphemy, and with the political scenario unfolding lately, it could have happened anywhere – at the airport, outside a mosque, or inside Masjid-e-Nabwi,” he said. “To call it blasphemy is a long shot. As for feelings being hurt, even if someone steps out of their house, someone or the other will end up with hurt sentiments,” he says drily. “And what happened when various religious leaders go to their respective mosques and announce things like it happened in Aasiya Bibi’s case? Was that not ‘tauheen‘? Would that not have hurt someone’s religious sentiments?”

Jamal also complained about putting in legal resources for such an empty case, rather than focusing more on other more important cases that were taking place every day such as gender-based violence, etc.

He went on to say that the government should have in fact discouraged this case from taking root rather than holding a press conference and standing by it.

Former Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Vice Chairman Abid Saqi also expressed his disappointment over this case. While speaking to Voicepk, he said, “This is unacceptable – using religion-based laws against political opponents is not justified. It indicates our stand that religious laws are always used for an unjust cause to exploit and victimise people.”

Civil society condemns

Irfan Mufti, representing Joint Action Committee (JAC) Lahore said that first of all they were against this kind of ‘politics of religion’ and secondly they demand that the government must withdraw the FIR. “This said we condemn both incidents the one that took place in Masjid-e-Nabwi and the one where the FIR was registered.”

Tanvir Jahan also a member of JAC said that the present government came on pretext of changing the standards of living for the general public. “That is the question that they will ask when they come to vote,” she said. “Are they getting utilities? Is there better housing and employment? They will not ask if the people who showed hooliganism in another country were punished. It is also important to note that the people involved in the incident were already punished by the Saudi government.”

Tanvir added that making the definition of blasphemy wider and wider was very dangerous.

“It’s like spreading an uncontrollable wildfire and the government must realize this at once.”


Courtesy: Voicepk.net

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