Pakistan professor’s murder highlights country’s outdated blasphemy laws

ISLAMABAD: The recent murder of a University professor by a student over “blasphemy” in Pakistan’s Punjab province has once again highlighted the country’s controversial blasphemy law, which stipulates death sentence for a person accused of insulting Islam or Prophet Muhammad.

While the state has not yet punished anyone with the death penalty in blasphemy-related cases, mere accusations have resulted in mob violence and lynching of alleged blasphemers in the past.

On Wednesday, a 21-year-old student Khateeb Hussain, attacked Khalid Hameed, the head of English department at Government Sadiq Egerton College with a knife, resulting in his death over a reception to be held on March 21 where both men and women were invited. Hussain had called the event “un-Islamic” and in a confession said he “took the law into his own hands as the government was not implementing blasphemy laws and was freeing blasphemers.”

“He (the professor) used to bark a lot against Islam… I’m content and thanks to Allah that the professor is dead now,” the attacker said in a recorded video.

The professor’s son, Waleed Khan, has lashed at the government for its inaction. “My father was the employee of the government of Pakistan. The incident happened inside the premises of the college but the government has neither shown any concern nor expressed any reservation against the incident,” he said while questioning the government’s “promise of tackling extremism and radicalization.”

“This has happened before, this will continue to happen but till when? Will it act on National Action Plan (NAP) due to pressure from India and US. Don’t our lives have any value?” Khan asked.

Although the academic community has been condemning the misuse of blasphemy laws, the Pakistan government has not taken any step towards abolishing or amending it, fearing a backlash. Prominent leaders, including former Punjab governor Salman Taseer and ex-federal minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, were gunned down during broad daylight in Islamabad for merely suggesting amendment in the blasphemy law.

Ismat Shahjehan, an Islamabad-based human rights activist told TOI, “It is very alarming when a student kills a teacher and says that he has fulfilled his holy mission. This is a dangerous mindset.”

Last year, a student had gunned down his college principal on campus after accusing him of blasphemy in Charsadda city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The principal had scolded the student for missing classes to attend a protest organized by a right-wing Islamist group in Islamabad.

In April 2017, Mashal Khan, a student, was beaten to death by his fellow students at his university campus in the Mardan region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province over charges of blasphemy that were later proven false.

“The right to differ has not been given to people in Pakistan. Since there is no room for dissent, people feel threatened by opposing views and beliefs. This gives birth to extremist mindset,” said Nazrul Islam, an Islamabad-based analyst.

Source: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/

Updated On: Mar 24, 2019

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