08/10/2018, 16.22
PAKISTAN
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Students take to the streets in Lahore for Qutub Rind, killed for 'blasphemy'

by Kamran Chaudhry

Christian and Muslim members of the Progressive Student Collective took to the streets to protest the death last month of an artist whose killers are still unpunished. Young people want the government to repeal the blasphemy law, which has killed many innocent people.

Lahore - (AsiaNews) – Pakistani students have taken to the streets to protest against the blasphemy law.

On Wednesday, about a hundred rallied at Lahore’s Liberty roundabout to protest against the continuing religiously-motivated attacks that are protected by this law.

The last incident dates back to 17 July, when some university students killed Qutub Rind, a young artist and a graduate of the National College of Arts in Lahore, whom they had accused of blasphemy.

Auwn Gurmani was present at the rally. Gurmani, 22, was among the six Muslim students who took part in two summer camps for children run by the church of Joseph Colony.

In 2013, an angry mob of Muslims raided Church-run camps after a local Christian, Sawan Masih, was accused of insulting Muhammad.

The Progressive Student Collective (PSC), a student group established in 2016, was behind the summer camps. Its members belong to ten Lahore colleges and universities, including Forman Christian College.

“We deliberately used drums during the drama to attract people attention. But we are also careful. Members of our theatre and cultural wing only perform when we have a huge gathering on roads," Gurmani told AsiaNews.

"Artist doesn't hurt, killing does" and "Justice for Rind" read placards carried by PSC protestors who chanted slogans against radical clerics.

"Everybody can see the trend,” Gurmani explained. “A furious mob forms after allegations of blasphemy and police registers the case as per their statement. The attackers remain scot-free and religious minorities continue living in fear. We have lost many precious lives" this way.

The Pakistan Christian Action Committee (PCAC), an ecumenical group that defends persecuted Christians, expressed solidarity with the students.

"We have been struggling against the controversial blasphemy laws for decades and need support from like-minded groups. The murder of Qutub Rind is a heinous crime and the authorities should handle this tragedy as another test case," said Rev Amjad Niamat, the PCAC convenor.

"Sadly, artists are increasingly becoming the targets of radical elements. A society which does not tolerate its artists suffers from internal decay."

Last April, the PSC re-enacted the lynching of Mashal Khan in front of the Lahore Press Club. The 23-year-old journalism student was killed last year in Mardan's Abdul Wali Khan University for alleged blasphemy.

In 2016, Sufi singer Amjad Sabri was shot dead in Karachi. Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the murder, saying his qawwalis (devotional songs) were blasphemous.

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