Tahir Hussain was shot dead inside a courtroom during his blasphemy trial | Twitter
Tahir Ahmed Naseem was shot dead inside a courtroom during his blasphemy trial | Twitter
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There’s a new ‘hero’ in Pakistan. He’s trending on social media, virtual petals are being showered on him and he’s become the Facebook display picture of many. Even a leader from the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party hailed him.

The ‘hero’ is a young man—Khalid Khan—who shot dead Tahir Ahmed Naseem, an accused in a blasphemy case, in a Peshawar courtroom this week. In front of the judge. This is what happens when you weaponise religion for decades.

Naseem, an American citizen who allegedly claimed to be the “last prophet of Islam” during a discussion with a madrassa student, was booked under Pakistan’s blasphemy law in 2018. A law that carries a death sentence anyway. Formerly an Ahmadi by faith and with a reported mental illness, Naseem was one of the many against whom people in Pakistan are prejudiced. And the law helps.

Khalid Khan fired at him six times during the court hearing Wednesday and reportedly said that Naseem was an “enemy of Islam”. Almost immediately, Khalid and his brutal act were lionised — quite literally because people were posting pictures of him with a lion in the background. The moth-eaten social fabric of Pakistan can even condone a killing if it “defends” Islam.


Also read: Ahmadi man under trial for blasphemy shot dead inside courtroom in Pakistan


A legion of fans

Many in Pakistan are justifying Khalid Khan’s crime as an act of bravery, putting up his photos as display pictures — just to hail a murderer.

Not too far from the glorification display was PTI leader Haleem Adil Sheikh, who had apparently put up the killer’s photo with a showering-petals filter as his Facebook DP. The leader later said on Twitter: “This is to clarify, I personally don’t manage my Facebook accounts. This was posted without my knowledge or consent.”

Social media is rife with anti-Ahmadi, pro-blasphemy vigilantism bigotry.


Also read: In Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan, a minority commission without minority


The lions

This isn’t new in Pakistan. This has happened many times in the past — even before Partition. Take, for instance, the 1929 case of Ilm-ud-Din, an illiterate teenager who stabbed to death a Hindu publisher, Mahashe Rajpal, for releasing a book on the Prophet. Din believed that the book, which he hadn’t read, had hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims. His case was fought by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, and he was hanged to death. Poet Iqbal, while burying Din, tearfully said, “The educated people like us just could do nothing, while this carpenter’s son scored a point.” Today, there is a mausoleum for Din in Lahore and he is revered as a ghazi (warrior), shaheed (martyr) and a saint.

The 2011 assassination of Punjab governor Salman Taseer by his own guard, Mumtaz Qadri, also took place because of a similar streak of intolerance. Quadri was allegedly incensed because of Taseer’s opposition to the blasphemy law.

Qadri was executed in 2016, but his funeral was attended by more than a hundred thousand people in Rawalpindi. Now, Qadri’s shrine in Islamabad attracts many followers. Even if he was hanged by the state, the duplicity around the issue keeps breeding more Qadris. And that is how in the Peshawar shooter, Pakistanis surely see a Din and a Qadri.


Also read: This is the one thing that Imran Khan, opposition & the religious clerics in Pakistan love


Ban and blasphemy

Between 1987 and 2017, about 75 people have been killed extra-judicially over mere accusations of blasphemy. These include — Christian couple Shama and Shehzad who were burned alive in a kiln in 2014, and Pashtun student Mashal Khan who was lynched on a college campus in 2017.

Yet, blasphemy laws continue to be used as a weapon by anyone who wants to overpower and silence the other. The state has ceded so much space to religious pressure groups that no one can even debate these laws. As in the case of a professor from Sindh, Arfana Mallah, who was threatened with blasphemy charges. Her crime? She supported another teacher, Sajid Soomro, who was booked under blasphemy laws for having a dissenting opinion.

No space for critical thinking is allowed when teachers fear ending up like Junaid Hafeez, a young university lecturer who was sentenced to death on blasphemy charges last year.

Be it the Hindu Krishna temple in Islamabad, the row over a gurudwara conversion in Lahore or the Christian man shot and killed for living in a Muslim neighbourhood of Peshawar, the increasing fanaticism this year doesn’t move the Imran Khan government at all.

Despite all this, the Punjab assembly just passed a controversial bill to protect Islam. In the garb of religion, the idea is to curtail free thinking. Banning a hundred textbooks over photos of pigs in a maths question, banning maps showing Kashmir as part of India, or the wrong birthdates of Jinnah and Iqbal. Then there is a Punjab Assembly member who wants designer beards criminalised because it is a sin. And a possible ban on TikTok is always kept handy — a warning was recently issued to the Chinese app because its content was leading to “extremely negative effects”. Not too long ago, the PTI wanted a ban on the Japanese cartoon Doraemon. What did Doraemon ever do to the PTI?

Not only are these laws, resolutions, calls for bans regressive, but they also remind us that Zia-ul-Haq may have gone, his ruins are still working overtime.

The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.

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32 Comments Share Your Views

32 COMMENTS

  1. @Moonwalker,
    Guy Endians Love To Peddle The Bengali Rape Genocide Theory Since 1971, It NEVER HAPPENED. Yes There Was Violence Committed On Both Sides, Pak-Biharis And Local Bengalis. Sarmila Bose even proved it in her book…But I guess you bloody Indians will never accept it. Two wings of Pakistan separated by 2000 kms with a hostile country, there were bound to be political problems…Gift from Nehru & British for never giving us the Pak-Corridor. Same goes for Afghanistan, we have every right to meddle in that so-called country…We kicked your former ally Soviet Union in the balls. Lastly, Baloch issue is a FAMILY FEUD between Feudal Lords who are unhappy about losing power to the provincial government. Don’t worry Kashmir will be unified with Pakistan very soon…Modi will do it for us!!

  2. یہ واقعی بہت خراب ہے: ایک ایسے ملک پر حکمرانی کی جاتی ہے ، جو سمجھا جاتا ہے کہ کسی قانون کے ذریعہ ہے۔ ایک بار جب یہ ایک قبول شدہ ، نظیر ہے ، تب
    1. انتقامی کارروائی کے بارے میں حیران نہ ہوں
    Islam: اسلام خود پہلا قانون ہے: قتل نہ کرو
    3. واضح طور پر یہ ریاست کا کام ہے۔
    Once. ایک بار جب سب اپنے ہاتھوں میں انصاف لینے لگیں ، تو انتشار کے علاوہ کوئی اور کیا توقع کرسکتا ہے ، اور لوگ سڑکوں پر ایک دوسرے کو قتل کرتے ہیں
    Once. ایک بار پھر مسلیم مذہب کے بارے میں ایک بہت ہی خراب خیال کا اندازہ لگایا گیا ہے۔
    اس کے بالکل برعکس چمکنا چاہئے۔ سبھی کو دیکھنے کے ل.۔
    6. چوٹ کو سمجھنا ، لیکن یہ واضح ہے
    ایک مقتول ، خالص نبی کے قتل کے حل کو حل نہیں کرتا ہے
    Pre. پریموسلیم – گیلائہ (خدا کو نہ جاننے کا مرحلہ –
    عین مطابق ، یہ کہ لوگ جانوروں کی طرح کام نہیں کرتے ہیں ،
    وہ قیدی کا سینہ نہیں کھولتے اور خام ، دل نہیں کھاتے ہیں
    پہلا مسیلم میسج یہ ہے: شہریوں کا آرڈر
    ملک میں ایک قانون ہے
    پھر یہ زمین کے ججوں کے سامنے ہے ، جہاں مجرم کو لایا جانا ہے
    اس طرح REASON جذبات پر حاوی ہوتا ہے۔
    حضور نبی کریم How کو کیسے لایا
    خاص طور پر اس طرح کے طرز عمل اور طرز عمل کے ل For۔
    تہذیب

  3. I am literally enjoying all the muslims abusing print 😂like I thought u guys were liberals / free speech etc..oh I forgot free speech for u not for others

  4. Does this CHORAAL have anything positive to say about Pakistan, Lady I sincerely apologize that you were not born in the “US of A” or UK…Maybe you can heckle and insult Pakistanis to the point of them turning into a Violent Mob, then you claim Refugee Status in the West. Better yet why don’t you convert into Hindu and flee to India under the Modi Resettlement Program….Same goes for your Idiot Teammates like Husain Haqqani & Mohammed Taqi who are comfortably living aboard and using Twitter to demean Pakistan for financial gains through books & controlled lecture series. History is dotted with countries built on Religion mixed Ethnic Nationalism, so never dare to question Pakistan’s justification or existence. Honestly, I don’t care whether Urdu and Hindi are 60% similar, I care about the 40% difference in the language that makes us unique. Not to mention each of the 5 provinces of Pakistan have their own languages & culture special to the local Indus Basin. Maybe if you reunite UK-US-Canada-Australia-NewZealand into Single Country than maybe we can talk…Till Then Witch STFU!!

    • You write like a typical Pakistani living abroad and experiencing a perennial identity crisis. The question for Pakistan to answer are from the former East Pakistan where you performed a genocide resulting in .5-3 m (official bangladesh govt stat), from Afghanistan where your actions resulted in a civil war killing unknown many, and from your own Pakhtun and Baloch “religion based ethnicities”. You are truly one of Macaulay’s children

      • Guy Endians Love To Peddle The Bengali Rape Genocide Theory Since 1971, It NEVER HAPPENED. Yes There Was Violence Committed On Both Sides, Pak-Biharis And Local Bengalis. Sarmila Bose even proved it in her book…But I guess you bloody Indians will never accept it. Two wings of Pakistan separated by 2000 kms with a hostile country, there were bound to be political problems…Gift from Nehru & British for never giving us the Pak-Corridor. Same goes for Afghanistan, we have every right to meddle in that so-called country…We kicked your former ally Soviet Union in the balls. Lastly, Baloch issue is a FAMILY FEUD between Feudal Lords who are unhappy about losing power to the provincial government. Don’t worry Kashmir will be unified with Pakistan very soon…Modi will do it for us!!

  5. First of all india has itself ban Tiktok and the author has issues if Pakistan is doing the same
    Secondly a chiristian killed in pakistan is highlighted so much without a mention of what happens with Muslim in India if they are carrying cow’s meat.He is neither treated as a hero nor supported. Its just that Indian media loves spreading negative news about pakistan and similar issue with pakistan media

  6. 100s of Mosques are built every year in west Bengal state of India alone. Muslim population has grown at the fastest rate in India. RSS says a lot of things but it’s not like your jamaat ud dawa. RSS guys dont go around on the streets with Ak47. No killer is made hero in India. And Pakistanis, who have built mazaar for Mumtaz Qadri, made him a pir, have absolutely zero locus standi to speak about India where Muslims have prospered for 70 years. No Muslim girl is kidnapped to be forcefully converted in India.

  7. I will request people from both sides to hold their horses till the events clear up. There is a possibility that this person is mentally ill. In that case his supporters will have to rethink. Also the other will realize that this is not the typical behavior of a Pakistani Muslim. Having said that the dichotomy will always remain whether an incidence like that would call for abolishment of the relevant law or its more strict implication.
    To quote an anology, What would be the best strategy to curb public lynching of, say, kidnappers. Strengthening and implementing the law or abolishing it altogether.
    The problem I see with my argument is that many people think that the blasphemy law itself is wrong. In that case we should not argue further without having input from religious or legal experts. However if you believe that the law itself is right but is being abused by the public, the best way to stop that is to give the public the confidence that the authorities are going to implement in the correct way. Abolishing it would have a totally opposite effect.

  8. I will request people from both sides to hold their horses till the events clear up. Looking at his pictures and clips and reading the claims that he was told by the Prophet to do that I strongly suspect that this person is mentally ill. If that is the case then people hailing him would obviously have to think twice before saying anything else. The people criticising him should also realize that this is not the way a normal Pakistani Muslim would actually behave. Having said that the dichotomy will always remain there whether an incidence like that would call for abolishment of the relevant law or its more strict implication.
    To quote an anology, What would be the best strategy to curb public lynching of, say, kidnappers. Strengthening and implementing the law or abolishing it altogether.
    The problem I see with my argument is that many people think that the blasphemy law itself is wrong. If that is the case then I have no further argument because that is beyond my expertise and to be honest beyond the expertise of most of us. However if you believe that the itself is right but is being abused by the public the best way to stop that is to give the public the confidence that the authorities are going to implement in the correct way. Abolishing it would have a totally opposite effect.

  9. This article is genuinely biased and far from the truth. No one and I mean No one is hailing this so called Hero. Sure, there are extremist elements in Pakistan but the majority do not support them.
    Indians news outlets love taking negative articles about Pakistan.

  10. Hmm ! what else ! These are doing their God’s bidding who has told them to fight on his behalf because he cannot ! Phony people. Sad thing is that these are all progenies of formerly hindus – just cowards who converted and don’t know who they are now. Perfect for radicalization – one or another – communism, islam, marxism, maoism, name anythingr adical that destryos.

  11. Why someone is not killing me except these peoples who are trying to divert poor muslims to qadiani is it right ?…i will appreciate the courage and act of that young man Tahir ghazi who has done such a big victory for himself and for all the muslim Ummah

  12. This article is completely biased. Killing someone is completely wrong and most of the Pakistanis are Expressing it on social media. So kindly stop spreading false notions !

  13. When a Pakistani establishment sponsored stooge Imran Niazi openly glorifies the world’s most notorious terrorist, Osama bin Laden, as the ‘martyr’ (who killed innocent Pakistani civilians and military officers), then you have radicals in Pakistan taking the law into their own hands.

    Imran Niazi is a clean-shaven radical who is no different than Narendra Modi and his followers and supporters are no less evil, misogynist, abusive than Modi’s supporters. His league of filth spewing are Salman Ahmad, Wasim Akram, Ramiz Raja and many more.

  14. The truth is always weirder than fiction when it comes to Pakistan and fake Indian history taught to us Indians under the aegis of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the Wahhabi cleric from Mecca.

    Btw, Why isn’t The Print approving most of my comments, while allowing mostly dumb comments?

  15. When a Muslim kills another Muslim, that is Halal. Indian secular brigade, and so called liberals, would not utter a word.

  16. Like many others the author blames Zia Ul Haq without questioning how he could do it. The truth is that Zia is just an excuse. After as the author herself says all the signs were visible even before 1947 with Jinnah and Iqbal themselves hailing Ilmuddin. Pakistan was founded as a fertile ground for religious extremists with Jinnah himself endorsing violence to protect religion. The Objectives resolution was passed long before Zia. Zia was just another in a long list of fanatics starting with Jinnah and possibly some of the founding members of the Muslim League who continued on the same line. Pakistan was always a nation for religious fanatics.

    • Jinnah never endorsed violence. RSS Hindu endorsed violence till this day. You Hindus have democratically elected a religious violent party which proves hwo you Hindus are no secular or tolerant nation, but a radical nation of religious extremists.

  17. Honestly i find Indian and Pakistani news t be utterly worthless, both side are just spreading lies about each other and they’re not even good lies

    • Mr. Kumar, I agree with you. Such a pathetic article. He is no “hero” in Pakistan. Reply from you neighbor.

      • @Horse: He is hero for those who support Imran Niazi. Because Niazi has glorified a terrorist Osama in the parliament of Pakistan. If he is no hero then why did PTI president in the province of Sindh, made the killer’s photo as his DP (showing graphical display of rose petals on his photo)

    • Niala anayat if a person abuse your parents you will abuse that person by hook or by crook
      But when some one says any wrong statement against out Prophet Muhammad صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم people like you always try to protect them under the umbrella of fredom of speech.
      The act which is done in the peshawer court is the act of love and fath with Islam, which is shown by a true muslim who has practical courage.

      • There is no courage in murder since the law is already dealing with him. If he is deemed innocent, maybe he is ?
        Either way it is murder.

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