ISLAMABAD: Following a massive protest by local residents, clerics and seminary students, police arrested blasphemy suspect Dr Iftikhar A Khan on Sunday.
Hundreds of people demanding Dr Khan’s arrest blocked IJP Road, suspending traffic for hours on Sunday. They dispersed only after police registered a case against the accused under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code. Dr Khan, a resident of Islamabad’s sector I-8/4, was moved to an undisclosed location for further investigation.
“The content recovered from the suspect’s possession appears to be blasphemous. However, we still need to determine its context,” a senior police official told The Express Tribune. Ultimately, it is up to the court to decide whether the accused is guilty of blasphemy, he maintained. If proven guilty under section 295-C, he can be sentenced to life imprisonment or even death.
Dr Khan will be produced before a court on Monday to obtain his physical remand for further investigation, the official added.
The complainant in the case is Dr Khan’s nephew Sheikh Usman. Police say Usman will also be questioned as to why he took 11 years to report the alleged blasphemy – the text in question had been written in 2001.
“Dr Khan had filed a Rs5 billion damages claim against Usman in some civil case. This could be the reason why the latter reported the case just now,” another police official informed The Express Tribune. He added that police will also look into the civil case’s history.
The official said Usman’s father Sheikh Rashayad told police that his brother started using language which could be interpreted as blasphemous, several years ago. He claimed his family had not been on speaking terms with Dr Khan for the past five years. Rashayad maintained his family never mentioned his brother’s work out of fear for their own lives.
However, the question remains as to why Usman chose this moment to report Dr Khan’s act.
The suspect has so far rejected the allegations against him. He maintained his book, which allegedly contains blasphemous passages, was an unpublished personal draft, said the police official. The copy of the confiscated book, however, shows that it was published in 2001 and that at least 1,000 copies were distributed, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2012.