Stories about blasphemy

Sawan Masih: Another injustice in the name of justice!

It appears that the public would rather Sawan jaey, than Sawan aaey. Sawan Masih, 26-years-old, a poor cleaner and the father of two, was arrested last year for allegedly uttering blasphemous remarks during an argument.  He protested his innocence saying that there was a property dispute concealed under the accusation of blasphemy but to no avail. Sawan and his family lived in Lahore’s Joseph Colony with other Christian families, clustered together for safety. Unfortunately, the numbers on ‘the other side’ were far greater. When the above event occurred, a mob composed of some 3,000 people attacked Joseph Colony for several days, forcing the inhabitants to leave. When this mob destroyed a hundred ...

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Don’t tell me to ‘stop being negative’ about Pakistani affairs

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been mocked for raging on the blogosphere about Pakistani matters. And many like myself have been repeatedly prescribed a ‘positive attitude’. These patronising suggestions need to stop. One of the leading complaints against liberal writers and media outlets is that they allegedly ‘focus on the negativity’ and fail to provide sufficient coverage to the saccharine, more palatable details of our country. Such ‘positivity’ is the staple diet of nationalists who are easily irked by information of our national imperfection and the blessed opium of the ignoramuses who cannot conceive the astronomical depths to ...

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On death-row: The living dead men of Pakistan

Eight feet by six feet – that’s how big most prison cells are for anyone who is sentenced to death in Pakistan. An inmate on death-row is kept in this cell until his execution takes place which, because of the 2008 moratorium on the death penalty, cannot lawfully happen anymore.  Although the moratorium ended in July 2013, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had to reinstate it indefinitely. His government had initially stated that: “The present government does not plan to extend it (the moratorium)” However, mainly because of European pressure, the moratorium was reinstated till a point when the president and the prime minister can have a ...

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Karachi is blasphemous, Lahore is not

If blasphemy is defined as ‘irreverent behaviour towards anything sacred’, Karachi is blasphemous; a city where something as sacred as human life is irreverently and disdainfully extinguished. As January limped to a close, three health workers administering anti-polio drops to children were shot dead. Bullet-ridden bodies of three young men were discovered and a police officer was gunned down in a suspected targeted attack. And yet, it is in Karachi, much more so than in Lahore, that a bastion of sharafat (respectability) is present; it is here that strangers smile at you, people say thank you for services rendered or stand aside and allow you to pass. In this ...

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Kholo BC and eight other reasons to lift the ban on YouTube now!

Just as the burning of a book is a sad sight, so is banning of resources of knowledge. It feels as if ideas contained in the treasure of enlightenment are vanishing, as pages turn to ash by the wicked work of flames. Almost a year and six months have passed since the world’s largest video sharing website, YouTube, was banned by the information ministry, after a massive uproar from Muslims across the world took place against the excerpts of the blasphemous film The Innocence of Muslims. The blanket ban on the site, however, has proved to be adverse in numerous ways and many ...

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‘Eye for an eye’: Does capital punishment do justice or encourage vengeance?

Around 140 countries have progressed to becoming abolitionist states in the last 65 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was promulgated. Unsurprisingly, Pakistan oddly stands as a retentionist for over a dozen crimes including blasphemy, drug trafficking, kidnapping and adultery. A sore reminder of this is the recent adjudication by an anti-terrorism court in Karachi that sentenced two men to seven and fourteen years imprisonment followed by a ‘to be hanged till death’ order. In a country that is deeply influenced by a strict and orthodox interpretation of the religion that the majority follows, are we ready ...

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Rimsha Masih: Another victim we failed to protect

Eight months ago, Rimsha Masih innocently told reporters: “I love Pakistan. I won’t ever leave my country.” Little did she know that after being accused of a crime she did not commit, under laws that were inherently in favour of her accuser, she will be forced to flee the country she held dear, despite how little it offered to non-Muslims like her. Today, Rimsha and her family have been forced to seek asylum in Canada. Rimsha was accused of burning pages of the Holy Quran by her neighbour, Khalid Jadoon in August 2012. She was detained in a maximum security prison for several ...

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Another Ahmadi venture under fire: When will we learn?

Teacher to Akram and Aslam: You both failed the test because you were late for class. Why were you late? Akram: Sir, I was busy looking for my atthani which I lost on my way to school today. Teacher: What is your reason Aslam? Aslam: (Sheepishly): Sorry sir, but I was standing on top of his atthani, hiding it. Reading such knock-knock jokes on the last page of The Lahore is one of my fondest memories of growing up in Lahore. At the age of ten, honestly, I could not comprehend the literary, cultural and political content of the magazine. So of course, I was surprised to read that such an innocuous magazine ...

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Pakistan doesn’t deserve its Christian community

The year 2009 saw a series of attacks on the Christian community in Gojra that left eight dead and many vulnerable and scared for their lives. 40 houses and a church were set ablaze by an angry mob and the police watched despite the residents begging for protection. Again this week, an angry mob around 3,000 strong attacked a Christian community in search of a particular blasphemer, Sawan Manish who, was already captured and in custody since Friday. These young men – again not surprisingly – in front of the police expressed their rage and caused hundreds of Christians pain they never thought they could ...

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Where was the tear gas when Joseph Colony burned?

I am sitting at the news desk silently taking in all the news reports of protests across Pakistan over the mob burning of more than 150 houses of Christians in Joseph Colony over alleged blasphemy. “Protesters on Ferozepur road Lahore have smashed a Metrobus office…a large contingent of police charge protesters using tear gas. Suspects being picked up.” “Protesters in Saddar Karachi have clashed with police…security officials resorting to aerial firing and tear gas shelling. Laathi charge underway. Over 20 arrested so far.” To see such police efficiency when faced by an enraged crowd is…ironic isn’t it? Where was this efficiency when the ...

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