What can best be called “blasphemy bogey” is picking up speed again in Pakistan,
targeting religious minorities and multinational products in the market, seen as purveyors
of “Western influence.”
No evidence is required. A mob simply besieges the target based on a complaint, from
anyone, or even a social media post. By the time the police arrive, damage to life and
property is done.
The police generally take away the ‘victim’ first to provide safety and protection from the
irate mob. What follows, however, is a regular police investigation and a prolonged court
trial. The attackers, even if detained, are bailed out and go scot-free.
At times they manage to overawe the court and get a conviction for their victim, which
could be prolonged detention, under trial or awaiting it.
Analysts say the Pakistan government’s outreach to resurgent Islamist militant groups at home
and its campaign against Islamophobia abroad is fuelling incidents of blasphemy. Also
responsible is the anti-West political campaign by former Prime Minister Imran Khan
who has alleged his ouster to an “international conspiracy” orchestrated by the United
On July 2, the target was a South Korean cell-phone freely available in the market.
Twenty-seven Samsung employees were arrested after a violent protest in Karachi by
activists of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), a militant body of Sunni Muslims
that the government has banned, but with whom it is also engaged in talks.
The protests erupted after “Wi-Fi devices” installed at a local shopping mall allegedly
played comments against the companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). A mob
destroyed Samsung billboards and products, and accused the company of blasphemy.
According to media reports, the protests erupted after “Wi-Fi devices” installed at the
Star City Mall allegedly played comments against the companions of Prophet
Muhammad (PBUH). A mob destroyed Samsung billboards and products, and accused
the company of blasphemy.
The South Asia Media Research Institute (SAMRI), a NGO, while quoting its local
sources, noted that the TLP workers staged protests and destroyed Samsung billboards
after an employee of the company allegedly specified a blasphemous name for his Wi-Fi
device. “The police have arrested the accused.”
Meanwhile, Samsung Pakistan issued a statement and said that the company maintains
neutrality on religious sentiments. “Samsung Electronics has reiterated its firm stance that
it endeavours to maintain objectivity on all matters of religious significance. With reference to the recent developments in Karachi, Samsung Electronics stands firm on its stance that the company has the utmost respect for all religious sentiments and beliefs and holds the religion of Islam in utmost respect.”
This is not the first time that a multinational company had to face the wrath of a group of
angry Pakistanis over a computer generated code. In December last year, a QR code
imprinted on a cold drink bottle had generated headlines when a man alleged that the
code inscribed the Prophet’s name and threatened to burn down an entire truck full of soft
drink if the company did not remove the code. The tiny Christian minority that forms 1.7 percent of the 220 million Pakistans population remains the most frequent target. On July 5, a Lahore court sentenced a Christian man to death after convicting him of committing blasphemy.
The Voice of Pakistan Minority, a rights NGO, stated that Ashfaq, a cycle mechanic, was
accused of committing blasphemy after being involved in a dispute over the payment for
his services with a customer. Last month, a court in Bahawalpur acquitted five members of a Hindu family, who were arrested a year ago on allegations of blasphemy.
In a report published by Kross Konnection, Advocate Ezra Shujaat had said that Yazman
Additional Sessions Judge Haider Ali Khan had acquitted the accused – Padmaa Ram
Bheel and his sons Ramesh Ram Bheel, Mansukh Ram Bheel, Dhan Raj Bheel and Pappu
Ram Bheel – after complainant Akmal Iqbal testified that the accused had already proven
their innocence in front of the village council. Bheel is a community of poor Hindus
inhabiting rural Sindh.
Iqbal had in May last year registered an FIR and alleged that the Hindu men had
desecrated holy pages of holy Quran stored in the premises of the government primary
school for boys in the village. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, a colonial legacy made more stringent by former military ruler Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s, envisage death as the maximum punishment for insulting
Most cases pertaining to blasphemy see prolonged investigations and court battles. The
acquittal, if it comes, does after long. A session’s court in 2018 sentenced two Christian brothers to death on a complaint by Muhammad Saeed who alleged that they had insulted Prophet Mohammad. The case was first registered in 2011.
Only on June 8 this year, the Lahore High Court, Rawalpindi bench, comprising Justice
Raja Shahid Mehmood Abbasi and Justice Chaudhry Abdul Aziz dismissed the appeals
of convicts – Qaiser Ayub and Amoon Ayub – ruling against their sentences.
The most celebrated case has been one of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, who got
into a dispute with fellow-women workers. They alleged blasphemy and Asia was jailed
and tried. Lack of evidence led to her acquittal, but she was jailed and re-tried, sentenced to death
by a higher court. But the Supreme Court acquitted her.
Following demands by Islamist groups that threatened her with death, she was quietly