Wed, 23 Jun 2021

Islamabad [Pakistan], May 18 (ANI): Amid international condemnation of Pakistan's draconian blasphemy laws, a mob of villagers attacked a police station in Islamabad in an attempt to lynch a person detained on blasphemy charges.

Senior police officers informed that dozens of villagers wielding batons and iron rods attacked the Golra police station, asking the police for the custody of the suspect held for investigation into a complaint lodged against him on a blasphemy charge, Dawn reported.

The villagers managed to enter the police station after overpowering the guards and started damaging the offices of investigating officers and the station house officer (SHO).

The policemen tried to protect themselves as well as the suspect by locking themselves up in the lock-up and other rooms, and later sought help from a police contingent.

Upon getting information, police reinforcement, including personnel of the counterterrorism department, anti-terrorist squad and anti-riot unit reached the spot and rescued the staff, reported Dawn.

After resorting to excessive teargas shelling and baton-charging the protesting villagers for over an hour, the police managed to disperse the villagers. It has not been confirmed how many police officers were injured.

There was a complete blackout in the police station and its vicinity, while the police shifted the man suspected of committing blasphemy to an undisclosed location under strict security, according to Dawn.

It is important to note that Pakistan's blasphemy laws have been universally condemned, with many arguing that the laws are used to silence people speaking for basic human rights.

On May 12, the 2020 report International Religious Freedom released by the US Department of State highlighted a downward spiral of religious expression in Pakistan, most notably in the form of blasphemy laws, punishment for which ranges up to the death penalty.

Citing civil society reports, the IRF report mentioned that there were many individuals imprisoned on blasphemy charges, at least 35 of whom had received death sentences, as compared with 82 individuals imprisoned on blasphemy charges and 29 who received death sentences in 2019.

The report also put light on the July killing of US citizen and self-identified Ahmadi Muslim Tahir Naseem, who was standing trial for blasphemy charges, after which some political party leaders celebrated the killer's actions.

Last month, the European Parliament in a resolution called on the Pakistan government to "unequivocally condemn" incitement to violence and discrimination against religious minorities in the country. It also expressed "deep concern" at the prevailing anti-French sentiment in Pakistan.

In December 2020, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for worldwide repeal of blasphemy, heresy and apostasy laws, some of which have resulted in the imprisonment and/or deaths of Christians accused of speaking against Islam.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws, both in content and application, are contrary to Pakistan's human rights obligations to respect and protect the right to life, freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief, freedom of opinion and expression, equality before the law, prohibition of discrimination and the right to life. (ANI)

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