Sunday, June 11, 2017

Khaled Ahmed - Pakistan, gripped by fear, tries to normalise blasphemy laws, anti-liberal violence // Man sentenced to death for blasphemy on Facebook

Our Stockholm Syndrome
On April 13, Mashal Khan, a journalism student at the Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, was killed by a mob of fellow students, who “shot him, stripped him, mutilated and pulped him, and threw him from the second floor”, after accusing him of being “secular” and “liberal”, and not saying his Friday prayers in the mosque. The media thought this must be labelled “death for blasphemy”. But the killers murdered Mashal Khan, not for blasphemy, but for being “liberal”, perhaps conditioned by the recent “disappearing” of a bunch of “liberal” bloggers by the deep state. 

Perhaps for the first time, Pakistani leaders rose as one to condemn the killing; Imran Khan, whose party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, rules in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, went in person to condole with Mashal’s father, not knowing that a councillor from his own party, Arif Khan, was among the killers whom, significantly, the police subsequently failed to arrest among the many whom it did. Such is the pro-killer syndrome in the province that his party, by and large, thinks that secularism is blasphemous. (At least, his coalition partner, the Jamaat-e-Islami, thinks so).

But Pakistan has not missed the threat from Imran Khan’s member in the National Assembly, Ali Muhammad Khan, quoted saying that those who are secular had better leave Pakistan. Then, another member of Khan’s party, National Assembly member Musarrat Ahmad Zeb, charged that the Taliban attack on Nobel Laureate Malala Yousofzai was “staged” — she accused the army of building Malala up as a champion of girls’ education and granting residential plots to the doctors who apparently falsely claimed that she had been shot in the head… read more:

Pakistan: man sentenced to death for blasphemy on Facebook
An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan has sentenced a man to death for allegedly committing blasphemy on Facebook, the latest step in an intensified crackdown on dissent on social media. A court in Bahawalpur handed out the verdict, the harshest yet for such a crime, after finding Taimoor Raza, 30, guilty of insulting the prophet Muhammad. Raza was arrested last year after a debate about Islam on Facebook with a man who turned out to be a counter-terrorism agent. He was one among 15 people arrested by the counter-terrorism department last year, accused of blasphemy, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. The verdict is part of a wider crackdown on perceived dissent on social media in a country where unfounded allegations of blasphemy can lead to mob vigilante justice.

Raza’s brother, Waseem Abbas, said the family was “poor but literate”, and belonged to Pakistan’s minority Shia Muslim community. “My brother indulged in a sectarian debate on Facebook with a person, who we later come to know, was a [counter-terrorism department] official with the name of Muhammad Usman,” he said. Raza’s defence attorney said his client had been charged with two unrelated sections of the law to ensure the maximum penalty. “Initially, it was a case of insulting remarks on sectarian grounds and the offence was 298A, which punishes for derogatory remarks about other religious personalities for up to two years,” said Fida Hussain Rana, the defence counsel. Raza was later charged unde section 295C of the penal code, related to “derogatory acts against prophet Muhammad”, Rana said.

Social media represents a new battleground for the Pakistani fight against blasphemy. Authorities have asked Twitter and Facebook to help identify users sharing blasphemous material, and have distributed text messages encouraging Pakistanis to report fellow citizens... read more: