18 blasphemy cases since January

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KARACHI – On February 27, a mentally-challenged boy named Idrees Khan was accused of blasphemy for allegedly torching pages of the Holy Quran. Two similar cases of blasphemy were reported on February 26 from Multan: a man named Shahnawaz, said to be an activist of a banned outfit, sent a blasphemous message using his friend’s mobile phone to implicate him in a blasphemy case. Muhammad Javed was also trapped by a friend, who sent a blasphemous message from his mobile phone. A Christian woman named Agnes Bibi was accused of blasphemy on February 24 in Faisalabad, according to a report filed by the Pakistan Christian Post. Accusations were levelled against her following a dispute over land.
On February 21, a man named Tanveer was accused of blasphemy in Bhakkar; he had allegedly disrespected the images of holy places. Noor Khan, a resident of Multan, was charged by his brother of blasphemy. Khan’s brother was supposedly raising slogans of ‘Sada-i-Madina,’ when Khan and another man, Maulvi Idrees, attacked him, accusing him of uttering “blasphemous” words about sacred personalities. February 7 saw the registration of two blasphemy cases, one in Rawalpindi and the second in Okara.
In Rawalpindi, rival Muslim sects blamed each other of committing blasphemy – an incident that sparked a clash and resulted in two deaths and one injury. A case was registered under the blasphemy and anti-terrorism laws. In Okara, a Muslim man was accused of blasphemy for allegedly tying a shoe to a flag bearing a holy symbol. On February 3, a Muslim man in Jalalpur Peerwala was accused of blasphemy for having a wooden slab hanging around his neck that was inscribed with blasphemous remarks against the companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Two men in Mansehra, Shahnawaz and another, were accused of blasphemy on January 31 for allegedly stealing copies of the Holy Quran and burying them in a courtyard.
In Karachi, 17-year-old Syed Samiullah was accused of blasphemy on January 30 for making supposed sacrilegious remarks in his physics and Islamic studies exam.
On January 26, a Lahore-based woman, Zahira, was accused of blasphemy by her sister-in-law. In Lahore, three men – Amjad (mentally challenged), Muhammad Nazir and Muhammad Iqbal – were accused of blasphemy on January 8 for allegedly desecrating the Holy Quran.
On January 7, a resident of Bahawalpur named Muhammad Ishaq was accused of blasphemy on charges of torching the Holy Quran while practising black magic. It is worth remembering that blasphemy laws were originally introduced in 1927 by the British, who made it a criminal offence to commit “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religious belief.” The law did not discriminate between religions.
The law was retained when Pakistan gained independence in 1947 under the rule of the country’s moderate founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah, but military dictator Zia ul-Haq made several changes to the original law – including life imprisonment for those defiling or desecrating the Quran.