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Protests erupt in Pakistan over execution of Mumtaz Qadri

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Pakistan: Following the execution of Mumtaz Qadri yesterday, convicted for the 2011 murder of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, thousands of protesters took to the streets across Pakistan.

Scores of heavy security have been deployed in Rawalpindi where thousands are expected to mourn Mumtaz Qadri, who was hailed as an Islamist hero among his supporters.

Trained as an elite police commando, Qadri was assigned to Salman Taseer as his bodyguard. In January 2011, Qadri shot the politician at an Islamabad market. He was sentenced to death later that year.

Qadri was executed at 04:30 local time (23:30 GMT) at Adiala jail in Rawalpindi yesterday.

Salman Taseer was one of the most prominent liberal politicians in the country and a close associate of the then president Asif Ali Zardari.

Taseer was an outspoken critic of Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws and supported liberal reforms. Qadri being a firm Islamist, thus, felt his religious duty to kill the minister.

Mostly peaceful rallies were staged by Qadri’s supporters in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad. Highways were also blocked into Islamabad while demonstrators were seen chanting slogans and burning tyres.

Schools are shut and markets are closed in Islamabad where lawyers are observing a strike. The neighboring Rawalpindi, where the burial will take place, has been kept off-limits for commuters. There is heightened security in all major cities and towns including Karachi.

The funeral is expected to witness large crowds pouring in while religious groups like Jamaat-e-Islami are building tempo, terming the day of Qadri’s hanging as the “black day” and announcing daily protests until Friday.

Regarded as an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan, blasphemy laws are often used to settle personal scores by various religious groups. Target minorities also had to bear the brunt of such unfairness.



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Christian Blasphemy Suspect in Pakistan Jumps from Building to Escape Torture

Supporters of Pakistani civil society groups protest in favor of the Christian community in Karachi, Pakistan, Feb. 26, 2018. An official said Sajid Masih, a Christian blasphemy suspect, who suffered serious injuries after jumping off a federal building, is now in stable condition. VOA

Authorities in Pakistan are investigating reports that a Christian blasphemy suspect jumped from a four-story building and suffered serious injuries to escape torture in custody.

Officials and doctors say Sajid Masih is recovering from his “fractured legs and jaw” in a hospital in Lahore where the incident took place on Friday.

Masih and one of his cousins were taken into custody for allegedly posting anti-Islam content on Facebook. They were being probed by cybercrime experts of the Federal Investigation Agency, or FIA, at its main office in the eastern Pakistani city when Masih jumped from the fourth floor of the building.

FIA officials denied charges the man was being tortured or abused, saying “no one had even touched” him. They insisted Masih panicked after “he was asked to unlock his cell phone” for screening.

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In a video message circulated and shared via social media, Masih has accused several FIA officers of “severely” torturing him and snatching his cell phone in the process. Pixabay

He alleged the officers were coercing him and his cousin into sexually assaulting one another before he decided to jump from the window.

Dozens of Pakistani human rights groups and activists strongly condemned the incident in a joint statement Monday. They raised serious concerns over persistent misuse of Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws, specifically against Christian and other religious minorities.

“The law enforcement authorities have not only failed in their duty to protect minorities but have actively participated in violence against them,” the statement said.

The groups called for an independent inquiry into the incident, rejecting the FIA’s ongoing internal probe as unacceptable. Wikimedia Commons


They also demanded that area police withdraw the case of attempted suicide against Masih. Activists say they suspect the police case was meant to cover up and protect FIA officers who made the Christian community member jump off the building.

Insulting Islam and its Prophet Mohammad are extremely sensitive issues in Pakistan and can carry the death penalty, although no one has been executed under the blasphemy laws. Right groups say the laws are often misused or exploited to settle personal disputes.

ALSO READ: Pakistan’s handling of Balochistan is reminiscent of its step brotherly treatment to East Pakistan

Mere allegations of blasphemy have provoked mob lynchings of suspects or their targeted killings in Pakistan. Pixabay

In Monday’s joint statement, activists have also demanded authorities take immediate steps for safety and protection of Masih and his relatives.

Last year,23-year-old university student Mashal Khan was beaten to death by fellow students and others at the campus, accusing him of sharing blasphemous content on social media, charges investigations later determined were false. The incident happened in the northwestern city of Mardan, provoking a nationwide outcry against Khan’s brutal killing.

Earlier in February, an anti-terrorism court sentenced one person to death and 30 others to jail terms, including life imprisonment, for their role in the lynching case. (VOA)