Blasphemy -/- On May 6, a mob in the city of Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, Pakistan, murdered a local cleric who was accused of making a blasphemous remark during a political rally for the party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan.
40-year-old Maulana Nigar Alam reportedly stated, “Imran Khan is a truthful person, and I respect him as much as the Prophet,” while addressing a rally organized by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Mardan in the Sawaldher area on 6 May to express support for Imran Khan and the judiciary.
As it explaines on the newsletter of Human Rights Without Frontiers, the remarks, which were deemed blasphemous, prompted a group of rally attendees to assault Mr Alam. Police were called to the scene and placed Mr Alam in a shop for his safety; however, whilst discussions were being held with the clerics, a mob predominantly composed of PTI activists broke the shop’s shutters and forcibly removed Mr Alam. They began kicking and beating him with rods before lynching him to death. The video of the cleric’s speech and his execution went viral on social media.
In Pakistan, this is the second incident of mob violence and murdering in 2023. A man suspected of blasphemy was lynched in Nankana Sahib, Punjab Province, on 11 February.
There have been similar assaults in the past in Mardan. On April 13, 2017, a throng killed Mashal Khan, a student in the mass communications department at Abdul Wali Khan University, on suspicion of blasphemy.
Blasphemy in Pakistan
Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws anyone who abuses Islam, including by outraging religious sentiment, is punishable by death or life in prison. These statutes are poorly defined and have low evidence requirements. As a result, they are frequently employed as a weapon of retaliation against Muslims and non-Muslims in order to settle personal grievances or resolve disputes over money, property, or business.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said:
‘CSW extends our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Maulana Nigar Alam. His tragic murder is yet another disturbing reminder of the dangerous implications of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws. We reiterate that these laws are wholly incompatible with the fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief and must be reviewed urgently, moving towards their full repeal in the long term. We also call on the Pakistani authorities to ensure that a full investigation is carried out, and that all those responsible for this horrific act are held to account. It is necessary for the government to enforce the rule of law and not allow anyone to take the law into their own hands.’