University professor arrested under blasphemy charges

Academics and activists condemn allegations against Prof Sajid Soomro and call for inquiry


Sameer Mandhro June 10, 2020
Academics, activists condemn allegations against Soomro, call for inquiry. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: A professor of Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur, was arrested by the local police under blasphemy charges on Wednesday.

Prof Sajid Soomro, who is also a writer known for his books on Sindhi-Mohajir unity, was arrested from his house in Ali Murad Mohalla, Khairpur city.

According to eyewitnesses, police officials in at least four police vans cordoned off the area and tried to apprehend Soomro, who closed the door of his house and called friends to inform them about the raid prior to his arrest.

“Dozens of police officials were present to arrest him. We were shocked to see the police rush to arrest a university professor in this way,” said Advocate Fayaz Khamisani, Soomro’s friend and Khairpur Bar Association joint secretary.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Khamisani said that he tried to convince the police not to arrest Soomro, but they barged into the professor’s residence forcefully and detained him.

“The allegations are very serious,” stated Khamisani, explaining that Section 295-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, mentioned in the FIR against Soomro, was non-bailable. “We have to check if the police sought permission from the home department before registering this FIR.”

Activist and lawyer Sattar Zangejo, another friend of Soomro’s, said that such allegations would make matters difficult for many activists seeking to highlight issues in society. According to him, Soomro had been engaged in a tussle with Ahmed Solangi, another member of literary organisation Sindhi Adabi Sangat, in recent months.

Zangejo told The Express Tribune that Soomro had also participated in the funeral of renowned Sindh writer, historian and activist Atta Mohammad Bhanbhro, who passed away last week. “The unique will of Bhanbhro was fulfilled by people such as Soomro,” he said, adding that chains had been placed on Bhanbro’s grave in accordance with his will.

Condemning Soomro’s arrest and the charges against him, activists, writers and members of civil society demanded that the Sindh government initiate an inquiry into the registration fo such a case against a university teacher.

“We want the government to withdraw the blasphemy charges against Soomro,” insisted activist and Sindh University professor Dr Arfana Mallah. “I appeal to the educated people of Sindh to raise their voices against such acts.”

Meanwhile, Khairpur SSP Umar Tufail did not comment on the matter despite repeated calls.

The FIR, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, mentions that the case has been lodged by the state.

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