After student's death, Pakistan senators call for amendments to blasphemy law
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive charge in conservative Muslim Pakistan and can carry the death penalty. Even unproven allegations can cause mob lynchings and violence. Photograph: (Zee News Network)
Senators in Pakistan have called for amending the country's blasphemy law to prevent its misuse and punish those who make blasphemy accusations against others.
Lawmakers also demanded a crackdown on those taking law into their hands.
This comes after Abdul Wali Khan University students Mashal and Abdullah were targeted by a violent mob on campus premises. Mashal was killed, while Abdullah was injured for allegedly "publishing blasphemous content online".
Condemning the lynching of Mashal Khan, senators stressed on the need for effective steps to prevent misuse of the blasphemy law.
Speaking about the blatant misuse of the law, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)'s Farhatullah Babar said a religious scholar had proposed that accusers who levelled false accusations should also suffer the same sentence as provided for a blasphemer.
'The assassination of Mashal Khan should make us think about concrete measures to prevent the misuse of the blasphemy law; we need to revisit this law,' Dawn quoted Babar, as saying.
Responding to Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani question as to how mob and street justice could be stopped, Babar said that an effective legislation would prevent such a mentality.
Asserting that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance and prohibits any excesses, even against animals, Retired Gen Abdul Qayyum of the PML-N also called for flaws in the blasphemy law to be addressed.
JI chief Siraj-ul-Haq said that no individual or organisation had the right to punish that individual unilaterally even if someone was guilty of a crime.
'This shows an imbalance and lack of tolerance in society,' he said.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Police has opened a hate speech investigation against two clerics in connection with the killing of a university student over allegations of blasphemy.
The clerics are accused of attempting to disrupt the funeral of Mashal Khan, a student of Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan who was killed by a violent mob on campus premises after a dormitory debate followed accusations of blasphemy.
According to the Dawn, the police is investigating the clerics in Mashal's hometown of Swabi for attempting to disrupt funeral proceedings and instigate hatred against his family.
"The two clerics [used]... the mosque loudspeaker for hate speech against the slain student and his family and ... created hurdles for the people and another cleric to participate in the funeral," said a senior Swabi police official.
A local imam had reportedly refused to lead Khan's funeral prayers last Friday and a technician who was asked to do so in the cleric's place was confronted by several people afterwards.
A large number of protestors took to the streets on Monday in the Zaida town, to defend Mashal as they chanted slogans "Be Gunah, Be Gunah (innocent), Mashal Khan Be Gunah." Relatives and friends, political workers and representatives of civil society groups and the general public participated in the march.
It was probably for the first time in the area that a large number of women, with their heads covered, took part in a mourning procession that turned into a public meeting at a square in the town, reports the Dawn.
Mardan police on Sunday claimed to have arrested seven more suspects in relation to the case with the total number of those arrested reaching 20.
All the seven suspects were produced in the court of a magistrate on special duty on Sunday who remanded them in police custody for a day.
Meanwhile, Inspector General Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa on Monday said there was no evidence to suggest that Mashal committed blasphemy.