Crowd gathers in Pakistan after Christian man sentenced to death for blasphemy

Crowd gathers in Pakistan after Christian man sentenced to death for blasphemy

A large crowd gathered in Pakistan after a Christian man was sentenced to death for blasphemy, highlighting the country’s ongoing struggle with its controversial blasphemy laws. The incident has sparked significant unrest and raised concerns about the misuse of these laws to target religious minorities and settle personal vendettas.

The Christian man, whose identity has not been disclosed for security reasons, was accused of making derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad. The court’s decision to sentence him to death has led to widespread protests and a tense atmosphere in the region. The blasphemy laws in Pakistan, which carry the death penalty, are often criticized for being draconian and are frequently used to persecute religious minorities.

The case has drawn international attention, with human rights organizations condemning the verdict and calling for reforms to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Amnesty International expressed deep concern over the sentencing, stating that it is a clear violation of human rights and freedom of expression. The organization urged the Pakistani government to ensure the safety of the accused and to take steps to prevent the misuse of blasphemy laws.

In recent years, there have been several high-profile cases of individuals being accused of blasphemy in Pakistan. These cases often lead to mob violence and extrajudicial killings, as seen in the tragic incident involving Priyantha Diyawadana, a Sri Lankan national who was lynched by a mob in Sialkot, Punjab, after being accused of blasphemy. The violent crowd tortured Diyawadana, killed him, and then set his body on fire. Videos of the horrific event circulated widely on social media, showing the brutality of the mob and the failure of authorities to protect the victim.

The culture of fear surrounding blasphemy accusations in Pakistan means that judges and law enforcement officials are often too afraid to acquit the accused, even in cases where evidence is lacking. This has led to a climate where accusations of blasphemy can be used as a tool for personal revenge or to intimidate religious minorities.

One of the most infamous blasphemy cases in Pakistan is that of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was sentenced to death in 2010 after being accused of blasphemy by her co-workers. After spending nearly a decade on death row, she was acquitted in 2018 following intense international pressure. However, her acquittal led to widespread protests and threats against her life, forcing her to seek asylum in Canada.

The Pakistani government has faced criticism for its handling of blasphemy cases and its failure to protect those accused. Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the violence in Sialkot, calling it a “day of shame for Pakistan” and promising that those responsible would be punished. However, critics argue that the government’s recent decision to lift the ban on the hardline Islamic group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) has emboldened extremists and contributed to the rise in violence over blasphemy allegations.

The TLP, which was previously banned and declared a militant organization, has been linked to several violent incidents, including the killing of police officers during protests. In one of the videos from the Sialkot incident, instigators of the violence can be heard using TLP slogans to justify their actions against Diyawadana. This has raised concerns that the government’s appeasement of extremist groups is fueling a dangerous trend of mob justice.

In another recent incident, a Muslim religious leader, Nigar Alam, was beaten to death by a crowd in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after allegedly making blasphemous remarks during a political rally. The police were initially able to bring Alam to safety, but the mob broke through and killed him. This incident, along with the attack on a police station in Lahore where a mob killed a man accused of blasphemy, underscores the volatile nature of blasphemy accusations in Pakistan.

The international community has called on Pakistan to reform its blasphemy laws and to take measures to protect those accused. Human rights groups argue that the laws are often used to target religious minorities and to settle personal scores, leading to a climate of fear and violence. The Pakistani government has been urged to ensure that justice is served and that the rights of all citizens are protected, regardless of their religious beliefs.

The case of the Christian man sentenced to death for blasphemy is a stark reminder of the urgent need for legal and social reforms in Pakistan. As the country grapples with the fallout from this latest incident, the international community will be watching closely to see how the government responds and whether it takes meaningful steps to address the root causes of religious intolerance and violence.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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