Muslim man 3 sons charged with blasphemy over argument with cleric in Pak

By M Zulqernain
    Lahore, Nov 25 (PTI) A Muslim man and his three sons in Pakistan's Punjab province have been booked under the tough blasphemy laws over an argument with a cleric who had refused to make an announcement about the funeral of a Christian neighbour from a mosque at a village bordering India.
    The incident took place at Khodi Khushal Singh village, near Burki area bordering India, on November 18 and the first information report (FIR) was registered against the four men under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) on the complaint of a member of the mosque committee, officials said on Thursday.
    The cleric alleged that asking for announcement from a mosque for a Christian deceased was an "insult to Islamic laws" besides the four men in question had allegedly also spoken against Islam.
    According to the FIR, a copy of which is available with PTI, a woman visited Jamia Masjid Hashmatullah in the village and requested the cleric (prayer leader) to make an announcement from the mosque about the death of a Christian neighbour.
    On this, the cleric told the woman that ‘Islam only allows to make announcements for funeral of Muslims from mosque’.
    The woman went back home and told her husband about the incident.     "Her husband Umer Bakhsh and their three sons – Mazhar, Murad and Sahil – came to the mosque and questioned the Islamic laws over the matter of the announcement of funerals of Christians or non-Muslims from the mosque. They also used abusive language about the prayer leader and spoke against Islam,” the FIR says.
    On the complaint of cleric Muhammad Mansha, the police registered a blasphemy case against Umer and his three sons. Three persons connected to Mansha have been made witnesses in the case.
    A police team has been constituted to arrest the suspects who have gone into hiding after a case registered against them, Police officer Imran Hanif told PTI.
    There has been tension among Muslims and Christians of the area after the incident and reportedly some Christian families left the village fearing for their lives.
    The misuse of blasphemy laws is common in Pakistan and minorities are most vulnerable.
    Aslam Pervaiz Sahotra, a Christian human rights leader, said that this is a rare incident in which a blasphemy case is registered only for seeking announcement for the funeral of a Christian man.
    He demanded quashing of the FIR and provision of protection of the Christian families of the village.
    Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws and their prescribed punishments are considered extremely severe. At least 1,472 people have been charged under the blasphemy law in Pakistan since 1987.
    People accused of blasphemy are usually deprived of the right to a counsel of their choice as most lawyers refuse to take up such sensitive cases.
    The blasphemy laws are colonial-era legislation but they were amended by former dictator General Ziaul Haq which increased the severity of prescribed punishments. PTI MZ IND ZH AKJ ZH

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)