Centre feels like going after blasphemy suspects

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Instructing the provincial governments to submit the details of all pending cases registered under the blasphemy law during the years 2010 and 2011, the federal government has issued directives to arrest all alleged accused involved in blasphemy cases immediately and produce them before courts as soon as possible, Pakistan Today has learnt.
Well-placed sources told Pakistan Today that the federal government is of the view that blasphemy cases should be resolved on priority basis, as the so-called religious parties can exploit the cases for their illicit motives and possibly create chaos in the country, especially prior to the elections for Senate slated for March next year.
“The Sindh police have been given special directives to arrest all suspects nominated in blasphemy cases immediately and inform the federal government with the developments and proceedings in such cases,” they added.
According to Sindh police records, 32 blasphemy cases registered in 2010 and 2011 are still pending as law enforcement agencies have not arrested any of the alleged accused so far. However, sources in the police department said that some of the alleged blasphemers have escaped from the country for the sake of international protection.
From 1980 to 2009, over 960 people – 479 Muslims, 340 Ahmadis, 119 Christians, 14 Hindus, and 10 of other faiths – were charged with blasphemy in Pakistan. Seventy percent of these cases were recorded in the urban areas, while hundreds of people were killed in the country under extrajudicial circumstances by religious zealots. Whereas, every year a large number of people have to flee abroad for protecting their lives and properties as they face life threats after being accused in such sensitive cases.
Since Ziaul Haq’s regime, at least 32 under-trial prisoners and even many of those acquitted from blasphemy cases have been extra-judicially killed by mobs inside prisons or outside courtrooms. At least two judges have also been assassinated for acquitting individuals of blasphemy charges.
In 1997, Lahore High Court judge Arif Iqbal Bhatti, who had acquitted two Christians in a blasphemy case in 1995, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen as was leaving the court building.