02/01/2017, 13.15
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Missing intellectuals and activists risk death penalty, charged with "blasphemy on social networks."

by Shafique Khokhar

The only one to have reappeared is Professor Salman Haider; the other four bloggers are missing for nearly a month. The complaint lodged by Shuhada Foundation. Even if they are acquitted, "their lives will still be miserable."


Lahore (AsiaNews) - The Pakistani Professor Salman Haider, who has just been reunited with family after being kidnapped, and the four other intellectual activists remain missing for nearly a month are being investigated for blasphemy.

This is confirmed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which has registered the case on the basis of a complaint lodged by a member of Shuhada Foundation of Iqbal Town Station (Lahore).

They are being charged based on comments that they have posted on social networks, in which they criticized religious extremism and radical attitude of some factions of the security forces and government. The acceptance of the complaint for blasphemy, which is a crime in Pakistan punishable by the death penalty, was the most feared by the families of the activists and their supporters, who complain of a growing repression of freedom of expression.

Judge Abdul Ghafoor Kakar has consented to the official registration of the complaint, initiating the investigation under Section 295 C of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The judge also ruled that the famous professor of Rawalpindi will have the obligation to stay in the country throughout the duration of the event.

Talking to AsiaNews, Hamza Arshad, a teacher and activist said, “A few days ago, the return of disappeared social media activist was hailed by political and civil circles. Their safe and sound release was considered a vital sign of power of public pressure. But, complacency often proves short lived in our part of the world. So here you are. According to media reports, FIA has lodged a case against ‘lost-and-found’ blogger, Salman Haider and others for allegedly committing blasphemy on social media. In fact, one would be surprised if ‘push’ had not come to this shove. With entire saga of Zarb-e- Azab and CPEC and other developments on one side, before our own eyes, forces of darkness are marching on while social harmony and liberal approach are continued to recede. And this is the country fighting a war of its survival. It is extremely deplorable that terrorists arrested from the battle lines are given passage free but writers and commentators are booked. Blasphemy charge, now proven or not, against a person who has already incurred hostility of zealots is sure to make his life a miserable. The charge has capital punishment but if freed, there is little guarantee of his life. This is happening in those times when our arch rival, India is hell bent on pushing us into international isolation and we too leave no stone unturned to give it a helping hand.”


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