Blasphemy vendetta: Pakistan 1990-2009

Contributing to the discussion on the lynching deaths of two boys in Sialkot, Nafees Muhammad has put together some of the reported instances of religious intolerance and bigotry that took place in different cities of Pakistan from 1990 to 2009.

The incidents listed below are by no means exhaustive. If you know of another such incident of faith-based violence, please, add it to the list via comments to this post.

Violence and vendetta against non-Muslims and assumed non-Muslims is escalating. There were 13 incidents reported from 1990 to 1999 and 25 from 2000 to 2009. 2010 may be the worst year of all.

Mourning the Sialkot Killings
By Nafees Muhammad

Indeed, it was a highly condemnable and deplorable act of crime against two young boys in Sialkot. I know the media has been very positively covering this incident and there is a chance the culprits may be apprehended one day, tried, and punished. A matter of concern for me is that this event is mostly being reviewed and analyzed in isolation from other similar acts of lynchings against the suspected robbers and those who belonged to a minority community and were blamed for committing blasphemous act.

When a Hindu worker of a mill was lynched by a mob in Karachi a few years ago, his family and the whole community was scared of facing a similar act against them and there was no media coverage about their miseries. Likewise, the Gojra incident wherein 7 or 8 Christians were burnt alive remain a dead issue for the court and the media.

All those who talked about and wrote about the present event of lynching of these two boys missed to say a few words about those people. Why? Wasn’t that a similar act of lynching? Those who think that lynching of a person belonging to different faith, ethnic group, or nationality is ignorable, one day may have to face the same crime themselves. Now Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) activists are enraged and willing to attack the family members of those who were involved in the Sialkot incident, but we all know how they all supported the culprits of Gojra incident.

Following is a list of the blasphemy incidents that have been committed in the name of religion in this country from 1990 to 2009.

Timely intervention averted a Gojra-like tragedy in a Chichawatni village 8/11-L on Sunday after representatives of Christian and Muslim faiths, with the assistance of inter-faith activists and police, thwarted the nefarious designs of unscrupulous elements.
KASUR, Sept 5
Phoolnagar Sadar police registered a blasphemy case against an alleged faith healer and his six disciples under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) following a protest of hundreds of people in Jambar Kalan on Multan Road on Saturday. Residents of Jamber Kalan continued their protest on the second day for the registration of a blasphemy case and threw traffic on Multan Road out of gear for quite some time.
KASUR, Aug 20
A prominent sect of Muslims on Thursday took to the street agitating alleged blasphemy by some representatives of the rival sect. More than 100 agitators blocked Bhasarpura Road by placing burnt tyres and demanded that the police register a case under blasphemy law against their rivals who, they alleged, broke a marble slab inscribed with ‘Darood Sharif’ at the main gate of Gulzar-i-Medina Masjid in Ayub Town.
Two people were killed when a mob of hundreds of people, including factory workers, attacked a leather processing unit near Muridke on Tuesday over alleged desecration of Quranic verses. Leather unit owner Sheikh Najeeb Zafar is among the dead. At least 24 assailants were apprehended in a late-night development.
Sanghar, August 5
An angry mob attacked the house of an elderly woman in District Sanghar, Sindh, accusing her of desecrating the Holy Quran. A case has not yet been registered but the District Bar Association assured the mob that if the woman – identified as Akhtari Malkani – is found guilty, she will be charged under the Blasphemy Law.
Gojra, August 1
Seven people were burnt alive and 18 others injured in Gojra, District Toba Tek Singh in Punjab after fresh violence erupted in the town over the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran three days ago. More than 50 houses were set on fire.
Azafi Abadi, July 31
A mob burnt 75 houses of members of the Christian community over the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran in the village Azafi Abadi at Gojra-Faisalabad Road. Seventy-five houses and two churches were burnt by the residents of a neighbouring village.
Layyah, February
Five Ahmadis in Punjab’s Layyah district were arrested on charges of writing blasphemous remarks in the toilets of Kot Sultan’s Gulzar-e-Madina mosque. No evidence or witness was presented. They were just detained on a ‘presumption of guilt,’ stated the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Karachi, April 8
Jagdesh Kumar, a 27 year old Hindu worker, was beaten to death by fellow Muslim workers in his factory in Karachi on the charge of blasphemy. The incident took place in the presence of policemen. Some reports suggested that the victim was in love with a Muslim girl that angered the Muslim workers, who decided to teach him a lesson.
Khanewal, March 6
An elderly man, Altaf Hussain, was arrested for desecrating the Holy Quran in Kabir wala Town of Khanewal District in Punjab. The spokesman for the Ahmadiya community countered that the charges against the 80-year-old were false.

Faisalabad, October 28
The police arrested Muhammad Imran of Faisalabad for allegedly setting the Holy Quran on fire. He was kept in a torture cell for three days and later in solitary confinement without anyone attending to his injuries. He was released in April 2009.
Islamabad, May 17
The nursing school at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad was shut down and seven Christian staff members suspended after female students of Jamia Hafsa protested over allegations that blasphemy had been committed at the school. Rumours spread that verses from the Quran posted on a wall had been defaced. School authorities denied all such claims. Christians lost their jobs.
Kotri, April 13
Sattar Masih, a 29-year-old worker at a water pumping station in Kotri city of Sindh, was allegedly attacked by Muslim extremists for uttering blasphemous remarks. An imam of a local mosque, Maulvi Umer, announced some written papers against Prophet Mohammad were found outside the mosque authored by Sattar. Muslim worshipers attacked Masih’s house and tried to kill him but the police arrived before it could happen. Masih was later arrested. Later, in January 2009, the accusation was declared baseless.
Toba Tek Singh, April 1
A case against Salamat Masih, 45, and four other Christians was filed for the desecration of Islamic posters and stickers containing the name of Allah, Prophet Mohammad and other Islamic verses in the Toba Tek Singh (Punjab) police station. The SHO allegedly converted the report into an FIR within 20 minutes without initiating any investigation. Subsequently, 80 young Muslims from the neighbourhood ransacked the houses of Christians in the colony.
Kasur, January 22
Martha Bibi, a Christian woman from Kot Nanak Singh, District Kasur, was accused of making derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad and defaming his sacred name.

September 21
Shahid Masih, 17, was jailed on suspicion of ripping book pages containing Quranic verses in Punjab.
Karachi, May 24
A Christian, Qamar David, was arrested from Karachi for allegedly sending blasphemous messages to some Muslims via cell phone as revenge for attacks against churches by Muslims in Sukkur, Sindh, and Sangla Hill, Punjab, earlier that year.

Lahore, December 23
Five members of the Mehdi Foundation International were arrested in Wapda Town, Lahore, for putting up posters of their leader Riaz Gohar Shahi showing him as ‘Imam Mehdi’. The Anti-Terrorism Court sentenced each to five years of imprisonment under 295-A of PPC. Their prisoners’ records posted outside the cell falsely indicate that they had been sentenced under 295-C – the Blasphemy Law.
Sangla Hill, November 12
After receiving frequent death threats, Parvez Aslam Chaudhry, a lawyer who defended many accused for blasphemy, was allegedly charged with flinging a burning matchstick on an Islamic school in the Sangla Hill stadium in Punjab which caught fire. Chaudhry was also physically assaulted outside Lahore High Court.
August 11
Judge Arshad Noor Khan of the Anti-Terrorist Court found Younus Shaikh guilty of defiling a copy of the Quran, and propagating religious hatred among society. Shaikh was convicted because he wrote a book ‘Shaitan Maulvi’ (Satanic Cleric) in which he mentioned stoning to death as a punishment for adultery was not mentioned in the Quran. The judge imposed a fine of Rs100, 000 rupees and sentenced him to lifetime imprisonment.

Lahore, November 20
Anwar Masih, a Christian labourer and resident of Shahdara, Lahore, was charged for insulting the Prophet in front of his neighbour. Masih had converted from Islam to Christianity. He was acquitted by the Lahore High Court in December 2004. Later, in August 2007, he lost his job in a factory when his employer was threatened for employing a ‘blasphemer’. Masih went into hiding.
Peshawar, July 09
A journalist in the NWFP was sentenced to life imprisonment for blasphemy. Munawar Mohsin, a sub-editor at the Frontier Post newspaper, was convicted of publishing a blasphemous letter in the editorial section that led to violent protests across the country.

Lahore, July 18
Additional sessions judge in Lahore imposed death penalty and a fine of Rs500,000 on Anwar Kenneth, a former officer of the Fisheries Department, in a blasphemy case registered with the Gawalmandi police. He was arrested on June 15, 2001, while distributing a pamphlet (Gospel of Jesus).
Lahore, June 11
A 55-year-old Muslim cleric, Mohammed Yousaf Ali, convicted of blasphemy was shot dead in the Lahore prison. The murderer was another prisoner, Tariq Mota, a member the banned Sunni militant group Sipah-e-Sahaba. Ali had been sentenced to death for blasphemy on August 5, 2000, in a case filed by another militant group who disapproved of his religious views. Ali had been vocal in condemning religious extremism.
Islamabad, October
Pakistani authorities charged Younus Shaikh, a teacher at a medical college in Islamabad, with blasphemy on account of remarks that students claimed he made during a lecture. The students alleged that Shaikh had said Prophet Mohammed’s parents were non-Muslims because they died before Islam existed. A judge ordered that Shaikh pay a fine of Rs100,000, and be hanged. In November 2003 he was acquitted after which he left Pakistan.

Sahiwal, May 6
Roman Catholic Bishop John Joseph of Pakistan shot himself in the Sahiwal courthouse to highlight the case of Ayub Masih, a Christian sentenced to death for allegedly uttering blasphemous remarks against Prophet Muhammad. The death of the 66-year-old led to protests by Christians. Subsequently, the Lahore High Court ordered a stay of execution for Masih. His fate remains undecided.

Lahore, October 19
Judge Arif Iqbal Hussain Bhatti was assassinated in his Lahore office after acquitting two people who were accused of blasphemy.

Lahore, October 14
Ayub Masih, a Pakistani Christian bricklayer, was arrested for violation of Section 295-C. The complaint was filed by Masih’s neighbour who claimed that Masih had invited them to accept Christianity and recommended that they read Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. He later made legal history when his appeal against the death penalty was turned down by the High Court in 2002.

Lahore, July
Catherine Shaheen, a teacher in Lahore, Punjab, was denied her salary on grounds of blasphemy. Since then she has been in hiding because of threats against her life made by some fundamentalists.

Mianwali, November 21
Riaz Ahmad, his son, and two nephews from the Ahmadi community were arrested in Mianwali District for their blasphemous remarks. The rivalry over Ahmad’s position as village headman was the real motivation for the complaint against him. The Sessions Court rejected the bail applications of the accused, however, the Supreme Court granted him bail in December 1997.
Gujranwala, May
Twelve-year-old Salamat Masih, Manzoor Masih, 37, and Rehmat Masih, 42, were charged with writing derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammed on the wall of a mosque in Ratta Dhotran village of district Gujranwala – where they lived. All the three were in fact illiterate and did not know how to write.
Samundri, February
Anwar Masih, a Christian from Samundri in Punjab, went to jail upon a Muslim shopkeeper’s allegation that, during an argument over money, Masih had insulted the Prophet Mohammed.

Punjab, November
Gul Masih, a Christian, was sentenced to death after having remarked to his Muslim neighbour in Punjab that he had read that ‘Prophet Mohammed had 11 wives, including a minor.’
Bantu Masih, 80, and Mukhtar Masih, 50, were arrested on the allegation of committing blasphemy. Both died in the Lahore police station. Bantu Masih was stabbed eight times by a fundamentalist in the presence of policemen. He later succumbed to his injuries, whereas Mukhtar Masih was tortured to death in police custody.
Faisalabad, January 6
Christian teacher Naimat Ahmar, 43, was butchered by a young member of a militant religious group, Farooq Ahmad, on the office premises of the District Education Officer in Faisalabad while on duty. Ahmad killed him because the deceased had reportedly used highly insulting remarks against Islam and Prophet Mohammed and by killing a blasphemer he had won his way into heaven. No case of blasphemy was registered against him nor was he tried by any court. Ahmar left behind a widow and four children.

Faisalabad, December 10
Gul Masih of Faisalabad was charged for using sacrilegious language about the Prophet and his wives. The complainant, Sajjad Hussain, had a quarrel with him over repair of a street water tap. Masih was sentenced to death by the Sessions Court, Sargodha, on November 02, 1992. Years later he was acquitted but continued to receive death threats. He is now in Germany on asylum.
Karachi, October 8
Chand Barkat, 28, a bangle stall holder in Karachi, was charged with blasphemy by another bangle vendor, Arif Hussain, because of professional jealousy. Hussain decided to teach Barkat a lesson by accusing him of using derogatory language against Prophet Mohammed and his mother. Barkat was charged under section 295-C of PPC, however, he was acquitted by the Sessions Court for want of evidence.

Lahore, December 7
Tahir Iqbal, a Christian convert from Islam and resident of Lahore, was accused of abusing Prophet Mohammad at the time of Azaan and imparting anti-Islamic education to children during tuitions. The sessions judge in July 1991 turned down his bail application after he learnt that Iqbal had converted to Christianity, which, he stated, was a cognisable offence. Later on July 21, 1992, before Iqbal’s defence lawyer could appear in court, he was poisoned in police custody.

Contributed by Muhammad Nafees ( to CMKP Digest #2231.

Firs published at Uddari Weblog

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