(AsiaNews/Agencies) - Accused of blasphemy, Khalil Ahmad, 65, was killed yesterday
by gunshots inside a police station by a 15-year-old boy, in Sharaqpur village,
near Lahore, Punjab.
began when Ahmad and three other people complained to a shopkeeper who had
displayed a sign with derogatory comments about Ahmadis, an Islamic minority considered
heretical by mainstream Muslims.
The shopkeeper refused
to comply and after a heated argument made a formal complaint of blasphemy
against Khalil Ahmed. Arrested last Tuesday, the father of four was taken to Sharaqpur
evening, a young man presented himself to police, asked to see Ahmad, and as
the latter approached, shot him. He was arrested by police.
The incident is
yet another example of the 'black law' at work adopted in 1986 by then dictator
Zia-ul-Haq to satisfy the Islamist demands.
The 'law' imposes
life in prison or the death sentence on anyone who desecrates the Qur'an or insults
the name of the prophet Muhammad.
As a result,
religious minorities are constantly intimated, including Ahmadis. Formally declared
as 'non-Muslims' in 1984, many of them have been arrested for reading verses of
the Qur'an or having them engraved on rings. In 2010, 86 of them were killed in
two simultaneous attacks in Lahore.
Over the years,
the so-called black law has come to be used as a tool to settle personal scores
or to use in business disputes. It has also been used to seize assets that
belong to members of religious minorities. Indeed, the number of cases has grown
exponentially, from one in 2001 to 80 in 2011.
In many cases,
like that of Khalil Ahmad, disputes end in murder. Just last week for example, lawyer
Rashid Rehman Khan, a prominent human rights advocate involved in the legal
defence of a university professor accused of blasphemy, was himself shot dead. On
a previous occasion, he had been threatened in a courtroom by fellow lawyers.
in the week, 68 lawyers were accused of blasphemy
in Jhang District, Punjab. Mostly Shia, the lawyers had taken to the streets to
protest against the police for arresting without reason one of their colleagues.
As a result of the
rally, the lawyers were accused of insulting the name of a close relative of
Muhammad in what is for all intents and purposes a bitter dispute between
police and members of the legal profession.
latest incidents, human rights organisations Life for All Pakistan and the
Masih Foundation have announced intention to stage protest rallies in Lahore to
express solidarity with the Ahmadi community.
For Fr John Aslam, a clergyman from the Diocese
of Lahore, what happened to Khalil Ahmad was tragic, the third blasphemy case
in two weeks.
The victim, the priest, said "was falsely
accused and fell prey to the extremist mind-set. A teenager killed without even
asking whether he had committed blasphemy or not. A simple discussion over
blasphemy led to an extreme reaction. The man was in police custody. Not
letting the courts decide the fate of defendants and taking the law in your
hands in the name of religion is insanity."
scholar Abid Ali condemned the incident, saying that "this case shows that the police is helpless and [that
it] failed to protect an accused. Killing an innocent in the name of religion
is unacceptable. Religious minorities have the right to practice their beliefs".