On January 19, Wednesday, the Rawalpindi Court in Pakistan sentenced a young Pakistani woman to death under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code for a ‘blasphemous’ Whatsapp status. Aneeqa Ateeq, 26, had allegedly sent a blasphemous text message and caricatures of Prophet Muhammad via Whatsapp. She was arrested in May 2020 and was left to languish in jail until her death sentence was handed out on Wednesday.
The verdict was handed out in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, with the court ruling that she should be “hanged by her neck till she is dead”. Besides, she was also awarded a 20-year jail sentence along with a total fine of Rs 2,00,000.
According to reports, she had used the messaging platform to send a ‘blasphemous’ text message and caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.
A summary issued by the court stated that when a friend urged her to change her Whatsapp status, she instead forwarded the material to him.
Pakistan has stringent laws against blasphemy with punishment ranging from jail terms to the death penalty. According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, about 80 people have been jailed in Pakistan on blasphemy allegations, with half of them facing the death penalty or life imprisonment.
In January, a sessions court judge in Pakistan’s Rawalpindi district sentenced to death Zafar Bhatti (51), the longest-serving blasphemy convict who has been rotting in Pakistan jail since 2012. Zafar Bhatti who belongs to the Christian community has been sentenced to death under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code.
Unfortunately, such barbarism has become rather common in the Islamic and desperately poor country.
In December last year, a Sri Lankan man Priyantha Kumara was burnt alive by a murderous mob in Pakistan’s Sialkot on allegations of blasphemy. Disturbing visuals of Kumara’s body burning even as the mob gathered around to take selfies and video with the burning man had gone viral on social media.
The mob was heard chanting ‘Gustakh e Nabi ki ek hi saza, sar tan se juda, sar tan se juda’ chants. This chant loosely means the only acceptable punishment for ‘insult’ of Prophet Muhammad is beheading.
However, as usual, instead of condemning such barbarity on the pretext of religion, Pakistan PM Imran Khan had gone on to downplay the heinous crime by referring to the attack on Priyantha Kumara as ‘vigilante attack’. Khan had conveniently skipped the part that Kumara was burnt alive on allegations of blasphemy. The Pakistan police had also stood like mute spectators while the mob chanted, called for the beheading of a man and burnt him alive for ‘blasphemy’ because they were ‘helpless’.