News / Asia

Pakistani Police Charge 68 Lawyers With Blasphemy Over Protest

FILE - A lawyer talks on his mobile phone at the site of a suicide attack in a court complex, Islamabad, March 3, 2014.
FILE - A lawyer talks on his mobile phone at the site of a suicide attack in a court complex, Islamabad, March 3, 2014.
Reuters
Pakistani police have registered a case of blasphemy against 68 lawyers who made a public protest after a police officer detained one of their colleagues, officials said on Tuesday, the latest in a tidal wave of such accusations flooding the country.
 
Analysts say the surge in accusations is a worrying sign the nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people is becoming less tolerant as militant ideas enter mainstream politics.
 
The colonial-era law does not define blasphemy, but the charge carries the death penalty. Presenting evidence can be considered a new infringement, so judges are reluctant to hear cases.
 
Judges who free those accused of blasphemy have been attacked and two politicians who suggested reforming the law were shot dead. Those acquitted have often been lynched.
 
Monday's charges followed a protest in which lawyers shouted slogans against senior police officer Umar Daraz for allegedly illegally detaining a lawyer in the Jhang district of central Pakistan.
 
“Lawyers were protesting against police, using foul language and the name of the inspector,” the district's police officer, Zeeshan Asghar, told Reuters.
 
One of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, founder of the Islamic religion, was called Hazrat Umar.
 
A member of a far-right sectarian party complained his religious feelings were offended because the lawyers used the name “Umar” in their protest, and lodged charges with police.
 
Blasphemy accusations have spiked in Pakistan recently, a 2012 study by the Islamabad-based think tank, the Center for Research and Security Studies, showed, with 80 complaints in 2011, up from a single case in 2001.
 
More recent figures are not available.
 
Analysts say blasphemy allegations are increasingly used to settle feuds or grab property. There is no penalty for false accusations.
 
Pakistan has not yet executed anyone for blasphemy, but members of religious minorities say they are often threatened with such accusations.
 
Last week a respected human rights lawyer was killed after facing threats in court for defending a university professor whose students had accused him of blasphemy. It had taken the jailed professor a year to find a lawyer ready to defend him.
 
Police said the man who lodged Monday's case was a member of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat, a front for a banned Sunni sectarian group linked to the deaths of hundreds of minority Shi'ite Muslims and led by politician Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi.
 
Pakistan is a mostly Sunni Muslim country but about a fifth of its people are Shi'ite Muslim, who have been targeted in violence recently.
 
The president of the Jhang Bar Association said the body hoped Ludhianvi, who had expressed displeasure at the protest, would ask his supporter to withdraw the case.
 
“The issue has been settled now,” said Meher Afzal Khan. “We have assured Mr. Ludhianvi that there was no mischief on our part. It was all a misunderstanding.”

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid