LAHORE: A man accused of blasphemy was shot and killed near his house on Thursday, shortly after being granted bail in the case.
Imran Latif, 22, was accused of burning pages of the Holy Quran in a case registered at Sherakot Police station and spent five months in jail. He was released on bail on November 3, after the complainant in the case told the court that he was not sure that Latif was guilty.
Inspector Rafique Ahmed, the investigating officer in the murder case, said that Latif’s murder was likely linked to the blasphemy case. “No Muslim tolerates a man who commits blasphemous acts,” he said.
He said police had only just discovered that Latif had been accused of blasphemy, as the family had not mentioned it when they reported the murder for the FIR.
Latif’s mother Sharifan, 60, said two men armed with pistols had knocked at the door of their house near Pir Makki shrine on Thursday and asked Latif to accompany them. “A few yards from the house they suddenly opened fire,” she said, adding that Latif had been hit five times.
She said the attackers then fled on a motorbike. “There were policemen present in the street but no one tried to stop them,” she said.
Haider Ali, Latif’s brother, said Latif was innocent in the blasphemy case. He suspected that a man named Ijaz Ahmed, who had a dispute with his brother over the ownership of a shop, had had Latif killed with the help of Muhammad Masoom and Ahmed Rizwan.
Human rights activists condemned the incident as another example of the havoc caused by the blasphemy laws. “The blasphemy laws are being so widely exploited here. It seems that the life of a person ends when they are accused of committing blasphemy,” said Dr Mehdi Hasan, chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
He said both the judiciary and the government were afraid of the laws. The judges were afraid of getting attacked for acquitting blasphemy accused, while the government was apologetic about the laws. “If any accused is acquitted by the court, society becomes hostile to him and this hostility only ends with his death. Killing a blasphemy accused is considered jihad,” he said.
Dr Hasan said that the blasphemy laws were being used for personal gains. “People raise blasphemy allegations against their rivals to get rid of them,” he said. “Before the imposition of the blasphemy laws in 1979, only three blasphemy cases occurred during 100 years in the subcontinent.”
Justice (r) Nasira Iqbal said many people accused of blasphemy in Pakistan had been killed before their trial had finished. She said sometimes police officials aided in the murder of people accused of blasphemy.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 15th, 2010.