Furore at Burns Road over printing ‘blasphemy’


In yet another incident involving blasphemy accusations and mob violence, a printing press was attacked and its owner severely thrashed in the Burns Road area on Friday. However, the mob’s attempt to set fire to the press was foiled by the timely action of the police, who arrested the alleged ‘blasphemer’.
A, the owner of a printing press on Burns Road, was accused by one of the residents of the area to be in the process of compiling a book “containing blasphemous material about the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his companions [sahaba]”. The book had already been printed and was in the cutting phase.
As the news spread, enraged residents and shopkeepers gathered outside the building housing the press. They forcefully stopped the printing and dragged A outside and gave him a thrashing. The protesters damaged the printing press and beat up the workers present inside.
The angry mob also tried to torch the printing press but the police intervened and took A and his employees out from the circle of protesters.
Initially, the police did not take any action against the printing press owner and released him. This aggravated the situation and shopkeepers and others joined the protest. Shops in the Burns Road area were shut down and the mob blocked the main road, demanding that the police arrest the ‘blasphemer’ and his employees.
The protesters torched two motorcycles and burnt tyres, blocking the main Burns Road from both ends and causing suspension of vehicular traffic.
Later, the Aram Bagh police arrested the printing press owner along with one of his colleagues.
Sunni Tehreek activist Fayaz Ali Qadri told Pakistan Today that the book contained sketches of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions. “The book is full of blasphemous material including sketches of holy personalities and material against them,” he said.
“The people involved in this matter cannot be forgiven,” Qadri declared.
Pakistan Today met with A in a lockup of Aram Bagh police station.
He said that he had no knowledge about the material being printed in the book. “I am a Muslim and can never even think about committing a blasphemous act.”
He added that he had received the order of printing of this book from a Karachi-based non-governmental organisation.
Talking on condition of anonymity, one of the workers at the printing press told Pakistan Today that three editions of the book [currently under publication process] had been published and the fourth edition of the book was being compiled. “We published more than 10,000 books of the three editions under this title during the past one year.”
Aram Bagh SHO Shahbaz Khan said that two people were arrested under the blasphemy law for allegedly printing derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The people were arrested following a case registered by Mehmood Ikram, son of Sheikh Ikram, who had accused A of blasphemy.
“We received a complaint from a Burns Road resident that A had violated the blasphemy law by printing derogatory remarks in a book [being printed] at his printing press,” the SHO said.
A case (FIR 181/2011) was lodged under Section 295-A against the owner of the printing press and his colleague.
The SHo said that police raided the alleged printing press and arrested the suspect, who has confessed to printing the book but denies any knowledge of the material being printed. “The printing press has been sealed and the complete material of the book has been taken into custody,” he added
“We saved the life of A as the enraged protesters surely would have killed him,” claimed the police officer.