Chinese man flatly denies blasphemy accusation

Published April 19, 2023
UPPER KOHISTAN: Charged protesters rushed onto Karakoram Highway near Kamila bazaar just after the blasphemy allegations came to light, in the early hours of Monday.—Photo by the writer
UPPER KOHISTAN: Charged protesters rushed onto Karakoram Highway near Kamila bazaar just after the blasphemy allegations came to light, in the early hours of Monday.—Photo by the writer

MANSEHRA: A Chinese national taken into custody after a mob accused him of committing blasphemy said he never made any remarks that could hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims or even hidebound Kohistanis.

The Chinese citizen, who was being kept at Police Lines in Abbottabad after the district administration declared the premises a sub-jail and beefed up its security, said he was arrested under trumped-up charges.

“I can’t even contemplate offending sentiments of Pakistanis and Muslims but whatever I have been facing here is nothing but a lie,” he told a Joint Investigation Team (JIT), constituted by the government to investigate the matter, as this was apparently the third attempt to sabotage the 3,420-megawatt Dasu hydropower project.

The JIT has already probed the 2021 attack on a bus carrying Chinese nationals to the dam sites that claimed the lives of 13 people, including nine Chinese nationals, as well as a blaze that broke out at a Chinese worker’s residential camp earlier this month. The team was now investigating the latest episode.

Beijing says it is ‘verifying situation’; interpreter casts doubt on nature of alleged sacrilegious remarks

Sources privy to the interrogation said that the Chinese national picked up on a blasphemy charge would probably be produced before an anti-terrorism court in Abbottabad tomorrow (Thursday).

Interpreter grilled

On the other hand, the police team investigating the case grilled the interpreter, Mohammad Yasir, on whose testimony the FIR was lodged.

The interpreter told the police team that he was ‘doubtful’ of what sacrilegious remarks the Chinese man had uttered.

He also claimed that labourers who accompanied him during the incident that led to the alleged blasphemy were compelling him (Yasir) to stand firm on his previous stance.

Meanwhile, Chinese engineers and workers resumed work at the project site. The work was suspended after crowds took to the streets demanding the arrest of the Chinese national accused of allegedly committing blasphemy.

Earlier, an FIR of the incident was registered at the Kamila police station, Upper Kohistan, under Sections 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 6/7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Beijing ‘verifying situation’

The Chinese foreign ministry said on Wednesday that its mission in Islamabad was verifying the situation regarding its national, Reuters reported.

“The Chinese government has always required overseas Chinese citizens to abide by the laws and regulations of the host country and respect local customs,” the ministry’s spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, said at Tuesday’s news briefing.

“If this issue does involve a Chinese citizen, the embassy will provide consular protection and assistance within the scope of its duties,” he said.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2023

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