Punjab, three Ahmadi men sentenced to death on blasphemy charges

The culprits are Mubasher Ahmad, Ghulam Ahmed and Ehsan Ahmed. “The court’s verdict was unfair,” says a spokesperson for the Ahmadi community. Last week, former Prime Minister Sharif’s son-in-law called for the social boycott of the “heretic” minority.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A court in Pakistan’s Punjab province has sentenced three Ahmadi men to death for violating the country’s controversial blasphemy law.

Mubasher Ahmad, Ghulam Ahmed and Ehsan Ahmed were found guilty and convicted by the trial court Wednesday for insulting the prophet of Islam.

The three Ahmadi had been arrested in May 2014 in a remote village in Punjab province after residents filed a complaint with the police and accused the defendants of tearing down a religious poster.

Saleemuddin, a spokesperson for the Ahmadi community, which is considered “heretic” in Pakistan, told Voice of America that “the charges against the defendants and the court’s verdict were unfair. The convicted men were trying to take down a poster, which had anti-Ahmadi slogans and text that urged the community to socially boycott the already persecuted Ahmadi community.”

The death sentence comes just a few days from another episode that involved members of the religious minority. Last week, retired captain Muhammad Safdar, a member of the ruling party and son-in-law of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, publicly denounced the Ahmadi community as a threat to Pakistan and urged the country’s authorities not to recruit them for the military or the civil service.

Safdar’s remarks sparked a debate in the country on the issue of minorities and their rights. Nawaz Sharif distanced himself from his son-in-law statement yesterday. “I declare it in categorical and unequivocal terms that all minorities living in Pakistan enjoy complete fundamental rights, including protection to their lives and property, under the Constitution and Islamic teachings,” Mr Sharif said.

“We will challenge the trial court’s decision in high court,” Saleemuddin said. In Pakistan blasphemy, which is punished with the death penalty, has been divisive in Pakistani society.

Even the mere suspicion can provoke the violent reaction of defenders of the Qurʾān. Nadeem James, a Punjabi Christian, was sentenced to death for insulting the Prophet Muhammad on Whatsapp.

Before him, the brutal lynching of Mashal Khan, a student at Mardan University provoked deep anger. He was punished by college campus colleagues after rumours spread that his comments “promoting the Ahmadiyah faith on Facebook.”

Subsequently, an investigation by the Supreme Court ruled that the 23-year-old had never offended the prophet. Before his case, at least another 62 people were killed between 1987 and 2015.