A 26-year-old Rawalpindi woman, Aneeqa Atiq, sentenced to death for blasphemy
This is the second case in a week in which capital punishment is imposed for violations of controversial blasphemy rules. The young woman was also sentenced to 24 years in prison and fined 200,000 rupees. She apparently used certain apps to share pictures of Muslim religious figures on social media. A friend of hers turned her in. According to some rumours, he took his revenge against her after being spurned.
Rawalpindi (AsiaNews) – An anti-cybercrime court in Rawalpindi (Punjab) sentenced a 26-year-old woman, Aneeqa Atiq, to death after she was convicted of blasphemy. The defendant also received a 24-year prison sentence and fined 200,000 rupees (about US$ 1,135).
This is the second death penalty handed down involving blasphemy since the start of the year. in an unrelated case, a Christian man had his sentence commuted from life imprisonment to death sentence more than two weeks ago. He is the longest prisoner serving time in prison on a blasphemy charge,
Aneeqa Atiq was arrested in May 2020, charged with posting "blasphemous material" (sketches of Muslim religious figures) on WhatsApp status.
A friend of hers, Hasnat Farooq, suggested to her to delete the pictures; instead, she apparently forwarded the same images to him using the app. At that point, he filed a complaint with the cybercrime unit of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).
Some sources claim that the young man had some interest in the young woman, but was spurned and so he used the pictures as a pretext to take his revenge against her.
On 13 May 2021, the FIA’s cybercrime unit filed a case in a Rawalpindi court against the young woman, charging her with blasphemy and violations of the Anti-Cybercrime Act, on the basis of Hasnat Farooq’s accusations
Aneeqa Atiq’s lawyer, Raja Imran Khalil, told Voice of America (VOA) that his client drew some pictures of religious pictures and posted them on WhatsApp status.
When the case went to court, a 36-page chat with insulting material was entered as evidence; during the investigation, her laptop, USB sticks, memory card, and mobile phone were seized. They are said to have contained insulting material.
Through the online game PubG, the defendant sent sensitive religious material to the accuser, Hasnat Farooq, who described himself as a religious man who did not like the young woman’s “provocations”.
For this reason, he began collecting evidence, which he handed over to police when he filed his complaint. The defendant allegedly posted sensitive and insulting material on YouTube as well.
In its ruling, the court said that the accused did not provide any evidence in her defence during the trial; for this reason, she was sentenced to death by hanging, plus 24 years in prison and a fine.
Human rights activists and other critics note that blasphemy rules are often used to settle personal disputes or attack rivals, minorities (including Christians), and even fellow Muslims, knowing that the trial often ends in a conviction.
For Mariyam Kashif, a Karachi-based human rights activist, while religious sensitivities should not be attacked, alternative sentences should exist to hanging, such as jail and fines.
The case of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother on death row for years, is a case in point. It caused a stir in pakistan and abroad, but thanks to the intervention of human rights organisations, governments, and even Pope Francis himself she was found innocent and released.