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July 31, 2020

A case of murder

Editorial

 
July 31, 2020

The smuggling of a pistol into a courtroom at a local court in Peshawar raises a number of key questions about security at our courts. In this case, it also raises some very old and unresolved questions of where Pakistani society stands. The pistol could have been used to shoot even a judge. Instead it was used by a man identified as Khalid to kill a person standing trial for blasphemy. The accused had been charged in April 2018. We still do not know the full details. A case of murder has been lodged against Khalid by police. Some reports on social media suggest that the accused may have belonged to the Ahmadi community, while other reports say he later changed his religion. Some reports also say that he was psychologically unwell. The question of how a pistol was brought in the court is still being investigated.

The case, which will need to be pursued by the state as the victim appears to have no immediate relatives to stand for him, is a reminder of the increasingly frequent misuse of the blasphemy law in our country. No individual has the right to murder another without a hearing and without a fair and free trial. Such incidents have become increasingly commonplace. According to some media reports, over the last decades scores of murders on similar grounds have taken place. Most of us will remember the brutal killing of student Mashal Khan. While the police have started taking a slightly stronger stance in the matter, the fact remains that it is extremely easy to bring a blasphemy charge against another individual and by doing so put his/her life at risk.

Blasphemy accusations have also been used as a weapon by politicians and certain sections of the media. And on social media, anonymous accounts routinely level charges of blasphemy. The only way to prevent this is by not only aggressively pursuing those who use blasphemy to commit violence but by taking on everyone who falsely accuses others of blasphemy. The key issue is that of violence and the willingness to take lives over accusations that have not been proven in a court of law.