On August 25, a curfew was imposed in Sadda, a sub-division of Lower Kurram, after a violent clash
lashes erupted in Lower Kurram on August 25 over allegation of blasphemy.
According to police, a shopkeeper and a customer were arguing with each other over an unsettled debt at Sadda Bazaar. After a heated argument, the shopkeeper accused the customer, who belonged to a different sect, of criminal blasphemy. He then started shouting and calling to other people in the bazaar.
A crowd gathered around and soon turned into a violent mob trying to kill the accused.
An eyewitness, who wished to remain anonymous due to safety concerns, said that he saw a crowd chasing a man in the bazaar. “A leader of a traders’ union hid him in his shop and called the police. The crowd soon surrounded the shop and demanded that the man be handed over to them. When the authorities arrived at the scene, the mob had blocked the Sadda-Parachinar Road. Some properties were vandalised. The police fired several shots to disperse the mob. As a result, two people were killed and 11 others were injured. Meanwhile, a Frontier Corps (FC) reconnaissance vehicle rescued the man from his hiding place,” the eyewitness said.
A curfew was imposed in Sadda, a sub-division of Lower Kurram, after the clash. Tribal elders at a local jirga and the administration officials later held a meeting. It was decided that the matter of alleged blasphemy be dealt with according to the law.
A first information report (FIR) of the incident was then registered at the Lower Kurram police station. The charges referred to Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) Sections 298, 295, 153A, 120B and 7ATA.
On August 23, the SHO of Shergarh, a town in Takht Bhai tehsil of Mardan, registered a blasphemy FIR. According to the FIR, a video clip had gone viral on a local social media page in which a person was reported to have made some blasphemous remarks. The police registered an FIR against the accused under Section 295A of the PPC. After the video clip was shared online, members of a religious party staged a protest demonstration in Shergarh. They also blocked the Malakand Road for traffic. Police have arrested the suspect.
Tribal elders and administration officials held a meeting. It was decided that the matter of alleged blasphemy will be dealt with according to the law. A first information report (FIR) regarding the incident was then registered at the Lower Kurram police station.
Communal violence had erupted in Kurram in the past following similar incidents. Tensions ran so high that many people had to travel under the protection of security forces. During the 2007-2012 sectarian clashes, hundreds of people were evicted from their areas. Many lost their lives in the clashes.
As a result of the clashes, the Tal-Parachinar Highway had remained blocked for several years. When the road closure intensified, people started travelling from Parachinar to Peshawar using helicopters and planes.
A 2021 report of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a Lahore-based organisation engaged in research and advocacy concerning human rights, democratic development and social justice for marginalised groups, says that at least 84 people were accused under the blasphemy laws. Three people were killed. This included a Sri Lankan citizen, Priyanka Kumara, lynched in Sialkot. More than 80 percent of the incidents occurred in the Punjab.
Section 295 A, of the PPC, defines deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs as a crime. It says: Whoever, with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of the citizens of Pakistan, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations insults the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both.
The report says 68 cases of alleged blasphemy were reported in the Punjab; seven in Islamabad; five in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; three in Sindh; and one in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. During the last year, the highest number of blasphemy cases in the Punjab were reported from Sheikhupura (13), Lahore (11) and Kasur (10).
The author is a multimedia journalist. He tweets @daudpasaney