Several Shia Speakers Arrested On Blasphemy Charges After Ashura

Authorities have arrested at least a dozen Shia zakirs and clerics across the country for allegedly making blasphemous statements against some companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

"Over a dozen Shia Zakirs have been arrested around the country on blasphemy charges in recent days for reciting the same chants that have been used in Ashura for centuries," said a tweet by a political activist.

According to an unverified list that has been shared on the microblogging site, these detained speakers include big names, such as Allama Ghazanfar Tounsvi, Iqbal Shah, and Hafiz Tassaduq.

The tweet termed these arrests a 'state-sponsored sectarian assault'. "The govt needs to step in before this spirals out of control," it cautioned. The list said six speakers whose names couldn't be made public were in the custody of the Counter-Terrorism Department.


Since the start of Muharram, there has been an increase in hate campaigns against Shia groups and subsequent blasphemy allegations for reciting Ziyarat-e-Ashura -- a prayer that denounces the killers of Imam Hussain.

After the prayer was broadcast by Channel 24 News on Sunday accidentally, there was an uproar on social media by people who demanded the arrest of the Shia cleric and a ban on the channel. Subsequently, PEMRA issued a notice to the news channel and suspended its licence for 15 days, whereas its owner Moshin Naqvi was also booked under ATA 1997 and Section 298A.

This Shia cleric who recited the ziyarat at an Ashura procession in Karachi was also detained under blasphemy law for denouncing Ummayad leader Abu Sufyan and Ameer Mauwiya -- also companions of the prophet (PBUH).

The prime minister had also vowed action against people who tried to incite to 'sectarianism' during Ashura, while he congratulated the nation over a peaceful Ashura.

Sudden rise in blasphemy cases against Shias:

At least 42 cases pertaining to blasphemy were registered across Pakistan in a single month, according to data compiled by a social media user.

Most of those accused of blasphemy belonged to the Shia community, who have been booked under 295-A and 298 sections of the Pakistan Penal Code for allegedly ‘insulting the companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’. Similarly, members of Ahmadiyya and Christian communities are also among the people accused of blasphemy.

Blasphemy accusations are highly inflammatory in deeply conservative Pakistan and have in the past sparked mob lynchings, vigilante murders, and mass protests.

Anti-Shia wall chalking appears in Karachi ahead of PM's visit:

Days after a Shia cleric was booked for alleged blasphemous remarks, anti-Shia wall chalking — a hate practice common since the 80s — has reappeared in various neighbourhoods of Karachi.

According to a post shared on Facebook, the wall chalking also had flags of banned sectarian outfits next to it. “Today, Prime Minister and COAS are coming to Karachi and we can see how the decades-old wall chalkings of “Shia Kafir” started reappearing on the street walls of various neighbourhoods in Karachi with the flags of the banned militant outfits.”

Pakistan Shias — that account for 20 per cent of the country’s population — have been at the receiving end of faith-based violence since the 1980s.

In the latter half of the 20th Century, the religious minority started facing the brunt of Sunni extremist groups, such as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) which are considered to be the same group with different names. All these groups claimed to target Shia over their ‘blasphemous practices’.