HYDERABAD: A meeting of the Human Rights Alliance held here on Thursday condemned arrest of Assistant Professor Sajid Soomro of the Shah Abdul Latif University (Salu), Khairpur, on blasphemy charges and threat by activists of a religious party to lodge an FIR on the same charges against Sindh University Teachers’ Association president Prof Dr Arfana Mallah.

The meeting chaired by Prof Mushtaq Mirani and attended by Imdad Chandio, Prof Badar Soomro, Jami Chandio, Taj Joyo, Haseen Musarrat Shah, Mahesh Kumar and others, noted that police were being pressured to register an FIR against Dr Mallah.

It expressed its concern over attempts by some extremist elements to undermine freedom of expression in Sindh.

“They are pressuring police to misuse the blasphemy and national security laws against enlightened, democratic and progressive forces, as well as organisations, in Sindh,” the meeting observed.

The meeting regretted that Khairpur police had already registered such FIR against Sajid Soomro and a religio-political party, misinterpreting a Facebook post of Dr Mallah, was pressuring the Bhitai Nagar police of Hyderabad to register a blasphemy case against her. It pointed out that a mob had surrounded the Bhitai Nagar police station on Wednesday to get the FIR registered but left after submitting an application with the police.

The meeting urged progressive forces and intellectuals of Sindh to play their role in curbing extremism. It also urged the provincial government to take bold steps to end an environment of insecurity.

The participants said that no one should be allowed to turn the peaceful land of Sindh into a centre of extremism. Every citizen of Sindh, including women, would protect the secular, peaceful and mystic identity of Sindh, they added.

HRCP, others condemn

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and other organisations have condemned the misuse of the blasphemy law after two academics of Sindh have been subjected to it, adds Our Staff Reporter from Lahore.

HRCP expressed its alarm at the wave of vicious attacks saying that Prof Soomro and Dr Mallah have done nothing more than exercise their fundamental right to freedom of expression as citizens and academics.

The Asma Jahangir (AGHS) Legal Aid Cell also announced its condemnation of such ‘draconian’ laws, and said they were being used to threaten, suppress and attempt to eliminate the academic individuals of Pakistan.

Women Action Forum has also issued its statement where it expresses solidarity with Dr Arfana Mallah.

Meanwhile, NGO Pakistan Human Rights Defenders Network (PHRDN), People’s Commission for Minority Rights (PCMR) and Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), and others have also expressed solidarity with the two academics and condemned the misuse of the law.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2020