08/06/2018, 17.22
PAKISTAN
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Blasphemy law: another innocent student killed in Pakistan

by Shafique Khokhar

Qutab Rind, who was killed by college students, claiming he had blasphemed, had his legs and arms broken before he was thrown from the third floor of a building. Police appear to be covering for the killers. “Another young talented student was killed under the banner of the blasphemy law to settle personal scores. This shows how dangerous it is to live in Pakistan where anyone can kill others for personal reasons,” said one human rights activist.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Pakistan’s blasphemy law has reaped another innocent victim. Qutab Rind, a young artist from Jacobabad who attended the National College of Arts in Lahore, was killed after he was accused of blasphemy.

Three students broke his legs and arms and then threw him from the third floor of a building, family members report it. Although the incident took place on 17 July, it was only reported recently.

Police said they have arrested two people but have not yet charged them. According to social media, the two suspects are called Ahsan and Waqas. The police could classify the case as blasphemy, giving immunity to the killers.

Human rights activists have expressed concern about such incidents and have called on the government to bring the guilty to justice. They say that as long as the authorities do not punish the people who commit such atrocities in an exemplary manner, no one will learn.

This will happen again and again, because people can get away with it by hiding behind religious motives. If Mashal Khan's murderers had stood before a court and punished according to the law, Qutab Rind might not be dead.

For human rights activist Rojar Noor Alam, “It is another sad day in the Land of the Pure [Pakistan]”. Speaking to AsiaNews, he said “Another young talented student was killed under the banner of the blasphemy law to settle personal scores. This shows how dangerous it is to live in Pakistan where anyone can kill others for personal reasons.”

"Lawmakers must look into it as it is becoming really dangerous, not only for religious minorities but also for Muslims, to live under shadow of the black law,” he added. “The authorities must realise that we must give our next generation a safe and healthy environment in which they can not only think, but also speak as well. Parents are not raising their children to let religious fanatics to kill them. Point to ponder!"

Rwadari Tehreek, an interfaith movement for tolerance, is shocked by Qutab’s killing and the attempt to justify the murder using the blasphemy argument. This is not the first incident of its kind. In many other cases, people clearly use the blasphemy law to settle personal scores.

"I have been in contact with the family of Qutab Rind who said he was a religiously-minded young man, who prayed five times a day,” Rwadari Tehreek president Samson Salamat told AsiaNews. “Blasphemy is only being used to get away with his murder."

Rwadari Tehreek calls for justice for Qutab Rind and expects the newly elected government, led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, to review the laws on blasphemy and stop its misuse.

The role of the police in the Qutab Rind case has also come under close scrutiny. The police say they have arrested the accused but have not yet formally charged them. It seems police are protecting the killers.

"For me,” Salamat notes, “the biggest test for [would-be Prime Minister] Imran Khan is how he deals with extremists and terrorists and stops the misuse of the blasphemy law, which has already caused huge damage and is being used by people to settle personal scores and create unrest."

Dil Nawaz, a UK-based Pakistani theologian, researcher, columnist and a community organiser, also spoke to AsiaNews. " It is sign of increasing violence and religious intolerance in society that youth are using blasphemy over a rent dispute. How can society deradicalise this mindset? Only through textbook interfaith dialogue and the strict enforcement of religious freedom.”

In Nawaz’s view, “Reform should include police procedure for those accused of blasphemy. It is the duty of the government to ensure justice for the victims of religious violence and the blasphemy law."

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