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Guilty till proven innocent: family of ‘blasphemer’ lives in trauma

Published Aug 31, 2012 09:01pm


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Police officers escorting a detained man. — Photo by AP/File

CHAKWAL, Aug 31: The scene in front of the court of Additional District and Session Judge Chakwal on Wednesday captured the divides that blasphemy cases bring with them.

Squatting under a tree on the premises of the district courts, Fauzia, 14, could hardly control her tears.

Misery, fear and distress were written large on her face. Nearby her mother and grandmother wept silently as her 10-year-old brother Aon spoke with their father, a blasphemy accused, sitting in the lock-up.

Another group of six men in the veranda were desperately discussing the case, trying to find a ray of hope.

Far away in a distant lawn, the mood was the exact opposite: a crowd of 25-30 men, most of them religious clerics were in high spirits.

Fauzia’s father had worked as a primary school teacher in tehsil Talagang of Chakwal district before he was booked on the charges of blasphemy under sections 295-C and 298-A of the Pakistan Penal Code on November 17, 2011.

The court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Raja Pervez Akhtar adjourned the hearing till September 4 after getting the witnesses’ account. The court has also summoned SP Yahiya Virk who conducted the inquiry.

The primary school teacher life changed forever when he went out to refuel his motorbike on November 2, 2011.

On his arrival at a local filling station, he was inadvertently drawn into a debate on the interpretation of conjugal rights granted under Islam.

Little did he know that his differing interpretation on the matter would irk those present. Just two weeks later Naseer Ahmad, a villager, had moved an application against him for committing blasphemy before Saddar Police Station of Talagang.

The local clergy too picked up the matter and started instigating the public against him: the teacher was declared a “malaun” (the condemned) and a fatwa was issued against him.

He was eventually arrested by the police and sent to a lock-up in Jhelum Prison.

For the last 10 months, the blasphemy accused has seen a stormy trial.

Every time his case would be heard by the Additional District and Session Judge Talagang Rana Zahoor, a swarm of clerics would descend on the court premises.

Eventually, his attorney Azad Hussain had to request the judge to transfer the case to Chakwal.

Meanwhile, his two children, wife, mother and other family members live in severe trauma. In fact, the local clerics find them guilty by association.

The blasphemy accused brothers were barred from pursuing the case and threatened with dire consequences. It was only when another community member, Azad Hussain, stepped in that the accused found himself an attorney.

Later, Qari Banaras, the Imam of the village mosque, in his Friday sermons urged the villagers to boycott the family.

“We are not allowed to speak to any villager neither are we allowed to attend the funerals and marriages of other villagers even of our close relatives,” lamented Ghulam Ali Qasim, the younger brother of the primary school teacher.

A couple of weeks ago when the father-in-law of another brother passed away, Qasim claims he was not allowed to offer the funeral prayers.

“My brother went to attend the funeral prayer but he was thrown out of the row on the order of the imam,” revealed Qasim.

“We are spending a highly miserable life fraught with panic and fear as we are being given life threats by the clerics,” moaned Kalsoom, the blasphemy accused’s wife.

She further told Dawn that she had sold her goat and a cow, the only two animals at the house, to fight for her husband.

“I’m not even allowed to meet my parents in the village,” Kalsoom narrated as tears flowed down her eyes.

Fauzia recently passed her ninth grade exams, but told Dawn that her friends have stopped talking to her because of the clerics.

“No girl at school talks to me,” she said while weeping.

“I want to be a doctor but now I’m unable to read due to misery and panic caused by the arrest of my father,” she added.

When contacted, the complainant Naseer Ahmad said that he did not want to give any comment as the matter was in the court.

On the other hand, Qari Banaras had an interesting reply when his attention was drawn to the plight of the blasphemy accused’s family.

“His wife should live with her parents as she lost the authority to live with her husband after he committed blasphemy,” he maintained.

It may be mentioned here that in Talagang, the counsel of every complainant in every case of blasphemy is Advocate Tariq Mehmood.

“Allah has chosen me to fight such cases against the condemned people,” he told Dawn.


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Comments (69) Closed

Fahim Sep 01, 2012 03:08pm
It is becoming the usual news in Pakistan. The religion is worst affected by this plague of "Intolerance" cause we take religion little too seriously but ignorantly! But it is not confined to that. It is deep penetrated into every aspect of our life. Pakistan is the most intolerant society I have ever seen.
atif Sep 01, 2012 09:58am
This case is a prove of our ignorance.Blasmphemy law is nothing but is to use againts the opponents and destroy their whole life.
Mujeeb Sep 03, 2012 05:32am
a Muslim accused of blasphemy for interpretation that differs from those of others? Are mullahs going to file charges against different sects entirely for their own interpretation of Islamic matters? are these elements of Islam proving benevolent? what's is next? complete wiping off minorities? I don't think they'd stop even then
Rattan Sep 01, 2012 09:46am
Pakistan pakistan pakistan - no further comments
Karachi Wala Sep 01, 2012 02:55pm
In this report, it is not mentioned if the accused blasphemer and his family were either Shia, Qadiani or Christian. It now seems apparent madarasa culture that has spread like wild fire in Pakistan and "Mullah Mafia" will push for new a ordinance where all Muslims will be required to go to village mullah to obtain a certificate for them to be able to call themselves a Muslim. Ibn e Insha was right when he said, in the past we used to find a way to bring people within Dira e Islam (Islamic circle), but now we look for ways to push them outside the circle. Way to go Pakistan............
Gerry D'Cunha Sep 01, 2012 08:29am
Unless the blasphemy law is not amended or abolished, Pakistan's as well as islam 's name will be tarnished in the eyes of the world and peaceful muslim citizens
innohunter Sep 01, 2012 04:08pm
Pakistan's biggest grandest enemy is its Mullahs. Fire burns inside me when i read such news. BTW I'm Muslim and a Pakistani.
Talat Sep 01, 2012 10:48pm
May God save this country from these religoius extremeists who are not ready to listen any thing different from their core beliefs.
Simba Sep 01, 2012 01:47pm
I don't that anyone got prosecuted during the time of the Prophet (pbuh) for these types of discussions?
Farid Midhet Sep 01, 2012 11:45am
For the first time in my life, I am ashamed to be a Pakistani.
Muslim Sep 01, 2012 12:17pm
Lets defend Islam. Pakistan is its fort.
khan Sep 02, 2012 07:10am
Is this the standard of our ethical and moral standards by which we preach Islam? Then we get surprised as to see why all civilized nations hate us!
Veera Sep 02, 2012 07:15am
unfortunate, unbeilevable. sorry for the family - where is the individual, democratic right?
Kailash Sep 01, 2012 08:20am
what a shame ! jungle is better than living in Pakistan.
Cyrus Howell Sep 02, 2012 09:36am
Well stated, but what do you intend to do about it?
Zimbo_Indian Sep 01, 2012 02:10pm
Thank God all countries are not like Pakistan
andleeb Sep 02, 2012 07:24pm
M. Alvi Sep 02, 2012 10:29am
I was ashamed of it long time ago, when I started reading such nonsense. It still bothers me, but I consider myself to be lucky to be out of there. Pakistani's in foreign countries should not send money to Pakistan anymore and should show our dissatisfaction to Pakistani officials visiting abroad, instead of greeting them as some of us do (for some misterious reason).
star Sep 01, 2012 01:57pm
pakistan is ruined by the mullahs.
M. Alvi Sep 02, 2012 11:00am
No sir, Pakistan is ruined by Pakistani's because of their 'jahalat'.
Sumit Sep 01, 2012 06:43pm
Pakistanis - Have you no shame? Love? Pity?
Aritra Sep 10, 2012 12:47pm
Why is it that Imams exert so much influence? Are they in their own crude way filling up a vacuum created by a pathetic govt? Remember, religion is the poor man's opium
Anwar Sadat Sep 04, 2012 02:12am
No this is precisely what the Great Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad had warned your myopic head of state about when he had claimed that people of different faiths could not live together and therefore establishment of Pakistan was a necessity. Maulana had predicted such violence against not just minoritis but against all citizens of Pakistan. But a majority of Muslims did not hear the words of reason but instead followed the false prophet that was Jinnah. Time to pay up. Look at the curriculum article in this newspaper. I am a Muslim from India and could not be happier that I live and breathe in a free country. It is not perfect but we are on the right track more or less. You are not. Reap what you have sown since 1947.
M. Alvi Sep 01, 2012 06:50pm
What I read above is horrible. Pakistan seems to be under God's curse. No one can do anything about it under the circumstances. The country is in the grip of Mullahs and extremists. Ignorance prevails among masses. I, for one, cannot think of any quick solution. I am sad for the country, but I am glad that I do not live there.
munaf Sep 02, 2012 07:43pm
So,who is going to deal with the Imam who have set this poor Christian girl for blasphemy. Who of the faith will deal with him and how. He has committed the most egregious assault on Islam of blasphemy by burning Koran Sharif. Lets release this poor girl now.
M. Alvi Sep 02, 2012 11:11am
Pakistan will be better off if religion is separated from government and people are free to practice religion the way they want. That is called religious freedom. Anybody obstructing such freedom, or interfering with any other person's belief belongs in jail.
Kashif Sep 01, 2012 11:39am
The land of ruthlessness and barbarianism, things are strangely disturbing, while our Pakistan Army fights the militants inside country and out on borders, like minds of these extremists live among the poor and vulnerable of the society, harassing the minorities. I remember whole country echoing with songs of patriotism and love for Pakistan a few years ago if there was a threat to country. Now many of soldiers have their heads cut by terrorists and there is absolutely no emotion to express by the nation, the whole country is trying to ensure how to kill the little girl who is accused of committing the Blasphemy.
Hassan Sep 01, 2012 11:36am
Sadly, Pakistan is sinking in a cesspool of ignorance while the rest of the world treads a path of recovery from an economic quagmire. Religion should be a personal matter and completely out of any country's constitution. Zia tampered with the social fabric of Pakistan in such a profound way that the nation is now condemned to a road of ignorance. A simple argument over conjugal rights lands a man in prison while his family is deprived of their livelihood. There is an odd, morbid relish that the crowd engages in, while the victim and his family suffer ostracism. How sad that we speak of competing globally and yet in 2012 have to contend with matters such as this one, which are granted legitimacy by our constitution.
nadeem Sep 01, 2012 12:11pm
I am shocked,if the man is innocent who will pay the compensation for the agony and trauma his family is undergoing....decaying society .
HM, Canada Sep 03, 2012 11:51pm
Religion of peace and mercy? Hijacked by Mullas
Sam Sep 02, 2012 12:36am
All educated pakistanis should come forward and fight the extremism, and illiteracy. Because of this case of basphemy against innocent child, Pakistan's image is going down the hill. This innocent girl should be free and also Goverment should compensate for the suffering she went through.
Lakshmidhar Malaviya Sep 02, 2012 12:18am
Very sad to read it! What a plight for a family. I am obliged to ask : Now no human beings live in hole length and breadth of Pakistan? "hamne buton ke bande to dekhe, khuda ka banda ika bhi na milaa!" Otherwise a swarm of well wishers would have come to the rescue these people. Lakshmidhar Malaviya Kyoto, Japan
M. Alvi Sep 02, 2012 10:31am
That's why I don't live there any more. I have no hope of things getting any better.
Jonaid Sep 01, 2012 12:55pm
my God, what kind of close minded society have we become. All this has to be blamed on so-called liberal middle class. They have alienated the 90 percent of rural dwellers by aping the West so much that this Rural class has no respect for their Good or Bad influences.
Khalid H Khan Sep 01, 2012 05:51pm
Shame on the Law Enforcement Authorities for allowing this unlawful thig hapening in their area.
Zahid Hameed Sep 02, 2012 07:33am
shame shame ....people who stopped evolving to empathise. shame pakistan.
samson Sep 02, 2012 02:08am
Who ever is reading this article whether u will published it or not. I want to tell u one thing u people are getting the whole world to hate u'll muslims, the whole world is getting a bad impressions on islam and the muslims. If u'll continue to persecute people for blasphemy then what ever is happeneing in mayanmar today is because the muslim deserve it. Whoever is reading this is a muslim and he should get the point. U'll are real pigs and ur religion does not teach peace it only teaches violence. shame on u'll muslims. Sep 01, 2012 01:44pm
Alll I have to say is " Shame on Pakistan" for arresting a 14 yr old kid for blasphemy charges
VKT Sep 02, 2012 12:56am
Is Pak is a country or land of nightmares allover
gill Sep 02, 2012 05:56pm
No the blame is on the 90 percent
Razzaq Sep 02, 2012 03:52pm
This is precisely what the founder of the country had said in his famous speech but the country and the religion has been hijacked since.
Muhammad Alvi Sep 04, 2012 02:20pm
I tend to agree with Anwar Sadat. By creating Pakistan as a separate country, a seed of hatred and prejudice was sown. In some ways, Muslims in India would be better off by staying together in one country. The number of Muslims in India is more than the total population of Pakistan. I believe they have better life than in Pakistan. If all Muslims were in India, they would have higher percentage and better representation. There are other problems that Muslims would not have, which they have now in Pakistan: 1) The leadership would be better than the present feudalism in Pakistan, 2)There would be better governance and no extremism and terrorism from which the people of Pakistan are suffering today, 3) People's lives will be safer. The only people who have benefitted from the partioning of India are the feudals of Pakistan. They have the free reign and are free to rule and loot.There are muslims here in USA from India, who complain much less than muslims from Pakistan. The bottem line is the quality of life of ourselves and our children. Every thing else is secondary. If we set aside the prejudices, life does become simpler and more enjoyable. "Life is too precious to waste in hating others."
M. Alvi Sep 11, 2012 10:14am
Your comment is not understood.
Nashib Hashmi Sep 02, 2012 01:54am
This is pure insanity in the name of religion by ignorant people of an unfortunate country. Illiteracy and intolerance can ruin any nation as seen in the case of Pakistan.
M. Alvi Sep 11, 2012 10:10am
At least among the people who are writing these comments, the emotions are so high against mullah ism and extremism. This is still not bringing about any change. I wonder why!
Ahmed Sep 01, 2012 12:12pm
I never imagined growing up in Pakistan that mullahism would drag the nation down to the cesspool in which it now finds itself.
Muhammad Alvi Sep 02, 2012 07:42pm
There is no instance. During the life time of the prophet, non muslims were insulting the prophet and Quran, in front of the prophet. So much so, that they threw trash on the prophet. The prophet himself or his followers did not behave the way some of us are behaving today. Inspite of all that, islam has survived for more than 1400 years. Do we need blasphemy laws today to protect islam?
John Farnsworth (Australia) Sep 01, 2012 11:05pm
While Christianity has moved on, somehow Islam seems to be stuck in its "dark ages". If this goes on, it doesn't bode well for the religion or your country's image.
Mehboob Sep 02, 2012 11:27pm
With due respect, even your understanding of religion seems distorted and at an opposite extreme end as that of the semi clerics in pakistan. What is currently happening is because there is no freedom of frank and honest debate on religion and religious practices which we should be promoting and lack of such debate is resulting in to this extremely illiterate clergy. I'm aware that a significant number of people have views similar to you but your suggestion would create permanent segregation in society and a phobia towards religion rather than faciliating corrective measures...
Cyrus Howell Sep 02, 2012 09:39am
Are you joking?
mansoor Sep 02, 2012 10:08am
A test case in Islamabad has just started and would decide which way Pakistan heads.There are credit worthy witness and a speedy deliverance of Justice is urgently needed.
Muhammad Alvi Sep 02, 2012 07:50pm
There was nothing like that in the constitution, Zia put it in. Now nobody can dare touch it nowt because of the fear of mullahs and their ignorant followers. You know what happened to Governor Taseer. His only crime was that he was opposed to blasphemy laws - he did not actually commit any blasphemy.
Haroon Sep 01, 2012 07:08pm
Is there any sanity left in the country? For Allah seek people mend your ways!
jtar Sep 01, 2012 07:16pm
More backwardness. How can the world respect Pakistan when the nation's judiciary and police behave with such profound ignorance and inhumanity? Do Pakistanis really want to be riduculed by virtually every nation on earth?
M. Alvi Sep 02, 2012 10:12am
Innohunter, you are not alone; fire burns inside of lot of people when they read these news. Yes, mullahs are the problem, but it all springs from ignorant general people in the country.
A Muslim Sep 02, 2012 02:49pm
Forgive Us God for the pain we are causing to humanity. Hope Dawn will not hold back my comments this time.
M. Alvi Sep 02, 2012 10:15am
Zardari, Nawaz and other politicians are responsible for all this mess. They need to be jailed for these crimes.
Only a well wisher Sep 03, 2012 03:56am
Sad story...may Allah forgive us and give all of us hidaya. Amin!
sanjeev Sep 01, 2012 05:35pm
Pakistan still struck up in 7th century
suraj Sep 01, 2012 07:42pm
Much paining..
suraj Sep 01, 2012 07:44pm
"Far away in a distant lawn, the mood was the exact opposite: a crowd of 25-30 men, most of them religious clerics were in high spirits." -- fanaticism makes people mad...
Capt C M Khan Sep 01, 2012 07:46pm
Shame on all of you accusers. Such misrey you are causing in the name of islam. Everyone is innocent unless proven guilty. Just because the Imam says you all like sheep coninue to shower misery on the family.
KKRoberts Sep 03, 2012 07:40am
I think he is not joking.May be he is living in the USA.
Isadora Sep 03, 2012 12:02am
Don't you see how everyone is afraid to fight these clerics? Fighting back could get you killed or in jail for blasphemy. This is all suffocating Pakistan and until your government stands against those 'blasphemy laws' it will get worse. I had to edit this comment because I didn't want to get you into trouble since I called the cleric a name. It wasn't a swear, but the clerics wouldn't like it. I hated the way it feels not being free to speak. Pakistan is not free due to all this and I think a lot of people know this - if they just look inside themselves.
Surinder Jeet Sep 01, 2012 08:40pm
Religion of peace and mercy?
Shakoor Ahmed Sep 02, 2012 11:37pm
We keep wishing for democracy to survive in our country; but, as long as religion is intertwined with the state , Democracy is not possible. Ignorance and manipulation by the Mullahs is disastrous. Anyone who objects to their policies is called a traitor and risks dangerous repercussion . Are we the rest of us cowards or simply hypocrites that we dare not collectively stop them from ruining our country. On a recent business trip to Canada I was forced to hide my face because I could not justify the actions of our state, judiciary, Awam, police and most of all the religious leaders. We have to take a stand and stop this injustice.
Parvez Sep 11, 2012 07:10am
Travelling backwards, we ahve entered medival tiems and are heading for dark ages.
Singh Sep 01, 2012 11:53pm
Sick people with sick mind. These clerics should be thrown in prison on charge of intimidating and violence. How Pakistan can progress with 6th century mindset. It is mind boggling to figure it out. If this is called Islamic state then it is better to live in gulaga,Then at least every body know they don't have freedom of speech. On other hand all those suicide bomber may be know that hell might be better than living in Pakistan.
The Muslim Press Sep 01, 2012 06:48pm
This is so sad. A set of rules written by Zia-ul-Haq are more precious to some villagers than the rules written by Allah swt. And with that I mean only if the villagers had learnt a bit about the lovely character of the Prophet Muhammed pbuh they would have realized that Islam is not that hollow or weak that it needs such rules that have come thousands of years after Islam came to this world. If this guy did what he did, there has to be a fair trial, and not only that, this kind of nonsense law should be removed. There are lots of other pathetic things happening in Pakistan that are way more unislamic. Why not get rid of the prostitute area in lahore? Why not ban every single concert that is packed with youngsters who might not even know the kalima? We Muslims have to wake up and defent Islam but this is the wrong way to do it.