01/02/2018, 15.19
PAKISTAN

Activists applaud acquittal of Lahore intellectuals

Kamran Chaudhry

The families of former suspects consider the possibility of asking for compensation. The hate campaign "orchestrated by people involved in abductions". Donald Trump's tweet against financing terrorism. The blasphemy laws "continue to be abused".

Lahore (AsiaNews) - Pakistan activists have expressed satisfaction over the acquittal from blasphemy charges of five intellectuals and bloggers who were abducted and later reappeared last year. The High Court of Islamabad rejected all charges and established that there is no clear evidence against them.

Speaking to AsiaNews Saeeda Diep of the Institute for Peace and Secular Studies, says the families of five bloggers are now planning to go to court and file cases against false charges filed against the activists. “Compensation is their right. The bloggers only criticized military (for violating human rights) and the whole campaign was orchestrated by those who abducted them. The affected families were forced to send their sons abroad for fear of death in mob violence as tv channels started targeting daily in their shows.”

Diep continues “We have been protesting against the inhuman blasphemy laws since they were created by a late military dictator General Zia-ul- Haq. We are only criticizing the man-made laws, they are not divine. Both Saudi Arab and Iran are now passing pro women laws and hopefully it will impact our society.”

She says her hopes continue especially after recent statement by Donald Trump in which the US President lashed out at Islamabad with threats to cut aid. Trump yesterday tweeted that the United States had “foolishly” handed Pakistan more than bn in aid in the last 15 years and had been rewarded with “nothing but lies and deceit. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” “The international pressure will only increase. The authorities would ultimately have to de-radicalize the society even if it’s out of compulsion.”

Kashif Nawab, a Christian activist and director Social Action Transformation of Humanity (SATH) Pakistan, who has been running a whats app group for minorities for three years says online activism requires strict scrutiny. “Last year, a woman journalist started accusing our members of being anti-country and anti-religion after a heated argument on whats app. I had to expel her from the group. Being Christian, we are always fearful of backlash and we weigh every word spoken or shared with public”.

Nawab adds: “Now that FIA [Federal Investigatio Agency] has cleared the bloggers, nobody is saying a single word about injustice. Blasphemy laws continue to be misused. People are using them over property disputes or settle personal scores. I have even seen cases where Muslims blackmale Christian women over blasphemy allegation to keep their relations.”

He concludes: “It is common to see clerics pressurizing police authorities once a person is accused of blasphemy. Police must be trained to diffuse religiously charged mobs. The government must introduce a strict verification process involving police and religious leaders before registering such cases.”

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