05/26/2022, 13.17
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Sargodha, youth beheads 80-year-old with machete after blasphemy claim

by Shafique Khokhar

The attacker, now in custody, struck Muhammad "Chacha" Sharif in the stomach in broad daylight, then slit his throat. He was shouting hateful phrases during the attack. Local sources speculate disputes over a sum of money behind the act. 





Sargodha (AsiaNews) - Yet another murder linked to blasphemy allegations in Pakistan, in broad daylight in front of a crowd that watched the act helplessly, unable to intervene. An 80-year-old man, known to most by the nickname Chacha (Uncle) Sharif (pictured), was killed in a brutal manner, stabbed in the stomach and then slashed with a machete, by a young man who shouted hateful phrases and slogans including, "I kill a blasphemer" as he struck. 

The incident dates back to May 19, but only after a few days did it emerge in all its cruelty. Muhammad Sharif, a trader with a 40-year bicycle repair business in Sargodha, Punjab, was beheaded by a 20-year-old man at 1 p.m. near a bus stop in an area crowded with people on their way to work. 

Eyewitnesses report a scene of violence and terror, with some people wanting to render aid to the agonized elderly man but fearing the reaction of the young man--arrested hours later by police--wielding a machete and accusing Chacha Sharif of being a blasphemer. Some people in the area speculate a dispute over a sum of money among the causes of the assault, and that it prompted the young man to kill the merchant using the pretext of the law that punishes those who desecrate the Quran or denigrate the Prophet Muhammad. 

Journalists and activists, including reporter Sabookh Syed, accuse the major national media of keeping the story quiet and concealing both the murder and the pretext that triggered it. Pro-human rights activist Mariyam Kashif Anthony speaks of the event as "appalling and deplorable," while calling for decisive government action to prevent similar events in the future. Blasphemy-related controversies are a sensitive issue in Pakistan, she adds, because they are exploited to "take justice into their own hands" or to settle personal disputes, in many cases by stirring up mob reaction that becomes complicit in crimes against innocent people. Recent examples include the Sri Lankan-born businessman Priyantha Kumara, who was lynched in his company, or Muhammad Mushtaq, who suffered from mental problems and was stoned to death after being accused of burning the Quran. 

According to the Center for Social Justice (Csj), between 1985 and December 2021 at least 1,949 people were indicted on false blasphemy charges, resulting in endless trials, threats and death row detentions. Of these, at least 84 were killed in extrajudicial killings because they were even suspected or indicted under the blasphemy laws. 

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