Chinese facing blasphemy charges in military custody

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On Monday afternoon, due to concerns for his safety, a Chinese national arrested on charges of blasphemy was transferred from Upper Kohistan to Abbottabad in a Pakistan Army helicopter, according to Komila Station House Officer Naseeruddin.

The accused, who worked at the Dasu Hydropower Project, was taken into custody on Sunday night by the Komila police after labourers at the site accused him of blasphemy. The police confirmed the arrest and registered an FIR against the Chinese national under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code for using derogatory remarks in respect of the Holy Prophet. The FIR was filed on the complaint of Gulistan and Yasir, both heavy vehicle drivers at the site.

According to their complaint, on Sunday night, police officer Jehanzeb was informed about a mob attempting to break into a Chinese camp near Barseen. The locals had staged a protest and damaged the camp’s site number 6. The police took control of the area and safely transferred the accused to the Komila police station. However, in the early hours of Monday, a large number of people reached Komila and blocked the Karakoram Highway again. They opened the highway for traffic after the police assured them of registering the FIR, and local religious leaders urged the demonstrators to call off the protest.

Later that day, Naseeruddin reported that the accused had been moved to Abbottabad via an army helicopter because the police feared locals might harm him. The FIR included Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, and the Chinese national will appear before a court in Abbottabad.

Since independence, as many as 89 citizens have been killed in 1,415 accusations and cases of blasphemy in Pakistan, according to a report by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in January 2022. Eighteen women and 71 men were extrajudicially killed over blasphemy accusations from 1947 to 2021. The allegations were made against 107 women and 1,308 men.

The report added that misuse of blasphemy laws is often considered unlawful by the courts and recommended that the legislature amend the existing laws to give equal punishment to those who make false blasphemy accusations.

The report also said that the origin of the blasphemy laws dated back to the British era when they were introduced in 1860. Initially, four blasphemy laws were introduced, and in 1927, section 295-A was added after the case of Ilmuddin, a Muslim carpenter, who killed Mahashe Rajpal for publishing a blasphemous book.