US Lawmaker, Civil Society Want Blasphemy Laws Scrapped

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Police in Pakistan’s Hyderabad earlier in August managed to disperse a violent mob which was baying for the blood of Ashok Kumar, a sanitary worker accused of committing blasphemy.

The clip shared by journalist Pakistan journalist Mubashir Zaidi shows Sindh police officers lathi charging miscreants from the extremist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). Zaidi in his tweet says the police claimed that Ashok Kumar ‘was targeted because of a personal clash with a local resident’.

News18 could not independently verify the authenticity of the video. However, in the 30-second long video, it was clear that the TLP miscreants had outnumbered the Sindh police officials who were guarding the police station premises.

Some Twitter users from Pakistan commented below Zaidi’s Twitter post that the uniformed men were from the Sindh Rangers.

The case also drew international attention as Republican senator from Florida, United States, Marco Rubio and his team also tweeted against Pakistan’s mediaeval blasphemy laws.

“After being falsely accused of blasphemy, Ashok Kumar, a Hindu man in Pakistan, was nearly killed by a mob before being arrested by local officials. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws breed deadly violence and should be abolished,” Marco Rubio’s press office said in a tweet.

Blasphemy is a common accusation used by miscreants and religious fanatics in Pakistan to settle personal disputes, carry out forced conversions and attacks on minorities under the guise of protecting the integrity of Islam.

Several cases of mob lynching in Pakistan has drawn international condemnation and countries have also pressured Pakistan to look once again at its blasphemy laws. Pakistan’s top politicians also refrain from addressing the issue in fear of losing votes from conservative Muslim strongholds and also from those who believe in a hardline interpretation of Islam.

The lynching of Priyantha Diyawadana on December 2021, a factory manager in Sialkot, on accusations of blasphemy shook the world and forced former prime minister Imran Khan to respond to the issue. Priyantha was beaten to death and then tyres were piled over his dead body and the lifeless body was set ablaze. Pakistan took action but TLP’s hooliganism continues unabated as evidenced by Ashok Kumar’s case.

Imran Khan succumbed to hardline Islamists later and removed the TLP from the proscribed list in November 2021 after the hardline Islamist group staged deadly agitations. They also successfully forced the then Pakistan government under Imran Khan to expel the French envoy over the issue of alleged blasphemous cartoons published in France.

Citizens Laud Sindh Police

Below Zaidi’s original post, some commentators who are believed to be Pakistani Twitter users lauded the Sindh police for taking action against the mob of miscreants. Some even accused the government of not being able to protect minorities.

Even a Pakistani civil servant, who took the incident on a positive note, was met with criticism from another Twitter user who said that in Islamabad government officials themselves call for harsher punishments for blasphemy.

These Pakistani Twitter users reveal that the ordinary people in Pakistan are also growing tired of the TLP which is known for its extremism. Reactions showed that they too are living in fear of extremist Muslims and they also accused the government of failing to implement law and order in the face of TLP’s violent protests.

Some Pakistani Twitter users also said that the government takes out its frustrations of not being able to deliver on minorities by accusing them of committing blasphemy.

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