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Pakistan: Blasphemy complaint against opposition politician for saying ‘all religions are equal’

The PTI leader stated, “His words are against the teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah, and are tantamount to blasphemy against Islam. He has declared Muslims and infidels as equal and this is a grave crime according to the Shariah.”

A PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) leader from Narowal, Qamar Riaz, has reportedly filed a complaint with the Zafarwal police against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) politician Khawaja Asif for allegedly ‘committing blasphemy’ while delivering a speech in the National Assembly.

As per the report, Riaz had quoted verses of the Quran to suggest that Asif had hurt the sentiments of all Muslims and had committed blasphemy. The PTI leader stated, “His words are against the teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah, and are tantamount to blasphemy against Islam. He has declared Muslims and infidels as equal and this is a grave crime according to the Shariah.”

In his complaint, Riaz urged the Zafarwal police to register a case against Asif for ‘disrespecting Quran and Islam’. According to Station House Officer (SHO) Faryad Gujjar, a case has not been registered against the said politician yet. He informed that the matter has been brought to the notice of DPO Zulfiqar Ahmed and that they are waiting for further orders.

Under Section 295 (C) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), the blasphemy law states, ”Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

Khawaja Asif on ‘Religious Equality’ in Pakistan

In his National Assembly speech on July 8, Khawaja Asif had remarked, “It is our responsibility as the majority (Muslims) to protect the places of worship of all minorities in the country…The rise of fundamentalism in the 1980s in Pakistan has subdued our mindset. As a result, faultlines have developed in our society that can lead to eventual doom… Pakistan was a tolerant society in the 60s and 70s but it is no more now.”

He reminisced how he once offered Namaz during Eid at a church in New York City and lamented how even the imagination of such a thing happening in Pakistan was implausible. “This is a country of 22 crore people, irrespective of religion. No religious group is superior to another religious group in the country,” Khawaja Asif emphasised.

Khwaja Asif’s statement in the National Assembly that has brought the blasphemy allegations against him

Reactions to charges of blasphemy

Reacting strongly to charges of ‘blasphemy’ framed against fellow party member Khawaja Asif, Shahbaz Sharif tweeted that Islam guarantees freedom for all communities living in the Islamic state. He added, “Equality is (a) fundamental principle enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan. What Khawaja Asif said in NA was in the context of Islamic teachings & constitutional provisions!” Shehbaz is the brother of former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and is currently the leader of Opposition in the National Assembly.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) also came out in support of the Pakistani politician. In a tweet, USCIRF stated that it is alarmed by the complaint against Asif after he said that all religions are equal in the country. “(We) urge Pakistan to conduct an expedited review of all blasphemy cases,” it emphasised.

Khawaja Asif slams Imran Khan

Last month, during a speech in the Pakistan National Assembly, Khawaja Asif emphasised, “Face the reality! Be it foreign policy or health or economy, everything is failing and collapsing (in Pakistan). And you (Imran Khan) are trying to appease us. The water has run over our heads. The destruction caused to Pakistan due to Imran Khan can only be reversed if we get rid of him. As long as he remains on the throne, the cycle of devastation will continue.” The PML-N legislator also reprimanded Imran Khan for referring to slain terrorist Osama Bin Laden as a ‘shaheed (martyr)’.

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