07/30/2020, 16.23
PAKISTAN
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An elderly man accused of blasphemy shot dead during court hearing in Peshawar

by Shafique Khokhar

For Human Rights Focus Pakistan president Naveed Walter, a “new wave of Islamisation has changed the school syllabus, the un-Islamic names of some cities and certain laws making them more rigid.”

Peshawar (AsiaNews) – An elderly man accused of blasphemy was shot dead yesterday in a courtroom in Peshawar. The victim, Tahir Ahmad Naseem, was an Ahmadi, a minority religious group declared non-Muslim in 1974.

The courthouse where the incident took place is located in a high-security zone on the main Khyber Road in the cantonment area that houses the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Assembly, the Peshawar High Court, the Chief Minister's secretariat and the Governor's House.

Tahir Ahmad Naseem, who was shot six times, was accused of blasphemy in 2018because he claimed to be a prophet.

According to the First information Report (FIR) filed against him, he belonged to the Ahmadi community. He had befriended his accuser, Awais Malik, on Facebook, through which he invited the latter to discuss his beliefs with him.

In the FIR, Naseem was charged under the Pakistan Penal Code, most notably Section 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), Section 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), Section 295-B (defiling etc. of the Holy Quran), Section 295-C (use of derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad PBUH) and Section 298 (uttering words etc., with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings).

The young killer, Khalid Khan, managed to enter the court and shoot at Tahir despite apparent tight security. Peshawar Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Mohammad Ali Gandapur said the attacker was arrested at the scene of the crime. He was charged under Sections 302 (punishment for premeditated murder), Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), and Section 15 of the Arms Act on the report of a police officer.

Aurat Foundation director Mahnaz Rehman told AsiaNews that people’s constitutional rights should be protected. The state should protect everyone who is eligible for a national identity card and passport.

Not all Muslims are Pakistani and not all Pakistanis are Muslims. “We shouldn't forget that our flag also has the colour white," he explained. He also said that if being Muslim is enough to be Pakistani, why aren’t Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) issued the second and third generation Burmese and Bengali Muslims living in Karachi?

Speaking about the murder, Naveed Walter, president of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP), said that no individual or group has the right to take the law into their own hands, whatever their excuse for the act, religious or other.

For Walter, the killing of people charged in sensitive cases is not something new; many others have been murdered during court proceedings. This being the case, he wonders why was security in the courthouse inadequate in this and other cases.

With murderers portrayed as "heroes" in social media, other people will be encouraged to do the same. As long as one can hear intolerant religious slogans across the country, certain mindsets will not change.

Bemoaning the “new wave of Islamisation,” he noted that “the school syllabus and the un-Islamic names of some cities have been changed whilst certain laws were made more rigid.”

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