Pakistan: crackdown on internet 'blasphemy'

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has issued notices to Google and Wikipedia censuring them for "disseminating sacrilegious content" through their platforms. The notices, issued Dec, 24, accused these sites of hosting "misleading" content referencing the present khalifa (spiritual head) of Islam. The PTA specifically cited articles and search results allegedly portraying Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the current leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect, as the "present khalifa of Islam." Additionally, the PTA demanded the platforms remove an "unauthentic" version of the Quran published by the Ahmadiyya community from the Google Play Store. The PTA warned the platforms "to remove the sacrilegious content to avoid any legal action" under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act.

Ahmadiyya is a persecuted Islamic sect in Pakistan whose followers are regarded by the orthodox as non-believers (kafirs) for their belief that their 19th century founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was the prophesized Messiah. Orthodox Muslims believe that Muhammad was the "final" prophet, which clashes with Ahmadiyya belief. The penal code of Pakistan explicitly discriminates against religious minorities and targets Ahmadis, prohibiting them from identifying as "Muslim," declaring or propagating their faith publicly, calling their places of worship a masjid (mosque), or making the Muslim call for prayer.

Successive Pakistani governments have failed to protect the Ahmadiyya community from targeted killings and other rights abuses, which have been fueled by charges of blasphemy. Pakistan's blasphemy laws are among the harshest in the world. Insulting the Prophet Mohammad carries a mandatory death penalty, while lesser offences can lead to prison time.

From Jurist, Dec. 27. Used with permission.

See our last post on persecution of the of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

Pakistani state continues uneasy dance with Islamists

Pakistani noted the passing in November of Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the "anti-blasphemy" activist who was among the most zealous public opponents of the Ahamdis. His party, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, has been an uneasy ally of the Imran Khan government, India's The Print reports. 

In a tilt toward tolerance—or, at least, a desire to soothe relations with India—the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Jan. 5 ordered the government to rebuild a historical Hindu temple that was vandalized and destroyed the previous week in Karak. The court directed authorities to rebuild the Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj Samadhi Temple and to charge expenses to a local Muslim leader, Mullah Sharif, whom authorities believe incited the riots.

Reports indicate that members of the radical Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party attacked the temple under the direction of the local cleric who opposed the building's renovation plans. Footage shows protesters taking pickaxes to the temple walls and setting it ablaze. Following the attack, police arrested more than 100 suspects and suspended dozens of police officers for failing to intervene. (Jurist)

On Jan. 8, the Anti-Terrorism Court in Lahore sentenced Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, leader of the organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), to five years in prison for terrorist financing. The Punjab Counter Terrorism Department arrested Lakhvi on Jan. 2 for running a medical dispensary as a cover to collect funds for terrorist activities. Lakhvi was charged under the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act.

Lakhvi is said to be responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 172 people dead. In addition to the five-year sentence, the court fined Lakhvi 300,000 rupees. The court also ordered the dispensary be handed to the state. (Jurist)

Pakistan: four police killed in anti-blasphemy protest

Four Pakistani police officers were killed and hundreds wounded when armed activists from a banned group clashed with security forces at an anti-blasphemy demonstration near Lahore. The clashes broke out at a rally of the banned far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) on a highway, as the group prepared to march on the capital Islamabad.

The TLP is protesting the detention of its leader Saad Rizvi, arrested in April when the group was outlawed by authorities. The group is also demanding the expulsion of France's ambassador for the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad by a French satirical magazine. (Al Jazeera)

Pakistan police report 500 for mob violence against Christian

Police in Sargodha, Pakistan filed a first information report against 500 people May 26 for allegedly engaging in mob violence against a Christian man accused of desecrating the Quran a day before in Sargodha’s Mujahid Colony. According to the report, locals congregated outside the Christian man's house with weapons and stones, and attempted to forcibly enter his home and set it ablaze. (Jurist

Pakistan Christian attacked over 'blasphemy' dies from injuries

A Pakistani Christian who was attacked by a mob last month after being accused of blasphemy has succumbed to his injuries, local media reported June 3. Nazir Masih, 72, sustained severe head injuries during the May 25 attack and underwent two surgeries before his death. He was buried in Sargodha, a city in Pakistan's Punjab province. 

Local media say police have registered cases against 500 people for their attack on Masih, his son. The identities of the suspects have not yet been disclosed, but participants in the mob reportedly belong to Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a far-right party that had previously registered a blasphemy case against Masih. (Jurist)