5 Times Blasphemy Allegations Against Politicians Led To Violence
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker Khawaja Asif is being targeted under a vicious social media campaign for saying that all religions are equal. The remarks made by the lawmaker while commenting on the Islamabad Hindu temple controversy during a National Assembly session have prompted hate speech against him. Extremist groups have termed him a ‘blasphemer’. A PTI lawmaker also filed a blasphemy complaint against the PML-N leader over his remarks.
This is not the first time a politician is being accused of blasphemy over their progressive stances. What is worrying is that these allegations have almost always resulted in violence against the accused, in some cases even murder.
In the past, two politicians, Punjab governor Salman Taseer and Religious Affairs Minister Shehbaz Bhatti were gunned down after they became a victim of a similar hateful campaign and allegations of blasphemy.
PML-N leader Ashan Iqbal survived an assassination attempt by extremist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) during his tenure as the interior minister of the country. The extremist groups were protesting the then government’s decision to remove Khatm-e-Nabuwwat (finality of Prophethood) oath from the Election Bill, a step that was later reversed and termed a ‘clerical error’.
Salman Taseer Gunned Down By Guard:
In Jan 2011, Taseer was shot dead by his security guard for supporting Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was facing death row in a blasphemy case. At a news conference, then-interior minister Rehman Malik had said: “The police guard who killed him says he did this because Mr Taseer recently defended the proposed amendments to the blasphemy law.” While Taseer’s murderer Mumtaz Qadri was executed following a conviction, his supporters continue to glorify him for killing a ‘blasphemer’.
Minorities Minister Killed By Taliban:
Few months after the murder of Taseer, Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, an advocate of reform of the country’s blasphemy laws, was also gunned down in Islamabad by self-proclaimed Taliban fighters. Bhatti had also advocated reforms to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. “This law is being misused,” Bhatti told Open magazine at the time. “Many people are facing death threats and problems. They’re in prison and are being killed extra-judicially.”
TLP Activist Tried To Kill Interior Minister:
In May 2018, then-interior minister Ahsan Iqbal survived an assassination attempt by in Narowal after a corner meeting. “Our initial investigation shows that [Hussain] is associated with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan,” police official Aitzaz Bashir had told Al Jazeera.
After a ‘clerical’ error led to some changes in lawmakers’ oath-taking forms, TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi led thousands of protesters to block a major highway entering the city, accusing members of the government, including Iqbal, of having committed ‘blasphemy’ by allowing the change. As a result, Iqbal was shot and wounded.
Shoe Thrown At Nawaz:
Apart from these shootouts, there were two other incidents wherein a shoe was thrown at former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Khawaja Asif was doused in ink.
During his visit to Jamia Naeemia in March 2018, as Nawaz reached the dais to address participants, a young man managed to reach in front of him from behind and threw a shoe at him, hitting his shoulder and ear. The shoe-attacker then chanted ‘Labbaik Ya Rasoolallah’.
In the same month, Asif came under an ink attack. The then-foreign minister was addressing workers when a man threw ink at his face.
In Nov 2017, then law minister Zahid Hamid’s residence in Sialkot was attacked by supporters of TLP and other religious parties. In the same week, PML-N MNA Javed Latif was injured while he was trying to address protesters in Sheikhupura. According to media reports at the time, former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar’s house was also attacked by a mob.