Pakistani policeman kills man with cleaver over 'blasphemy grudge'

Pakistani policeman kills man with cleaver over 'blasphemy grudge'
A man who was accused and acquitted of a blasphemy charges in 2016 was killed by a police officer, Pakistani authorities said on Saturday.
2 min read
03 July, 2021
The victim had been acquitted years earlier [Getty]

A Pakistani policeman killed a man with a cleaver over blasphemy allegations years after the victim was acquitted of the charge by a court, police said on Saturday.

Waqas Ahmed faced trial in 2016 over a Facebook post, but was acquitted.

The policeman, Abdul Qadir, resented the verdict and attacked him with a cleaver late on Friday in Rahim Yar Khan city, Punjab province.

"He... was planning to kill him since 2016 over the allegations of disrespecting Prophet Mohammed," police official Rana Muhammad Ashraf told AFP

Ahmed Nawaz, a police spokesman, confirmed the incident, adding the victim's brother was also injured in the attack.

"The constable voluntarily gave himself up to the police," Nawaz said.

Both the attacker and the victims were from the same tribe and village, police said, and they were investigating if they had some personal enmity.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in conservative Pakistan where laws can carry the death penalty for anyone deemed to have insulted Islam or Islamic figures.

Such allegations are explosive, and often result in furious outcries across the ultra-conservative Islamic republic.

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The country's strict blasphemy laws are disproportionately used against religious minorities, including the Christian community, and critics contend they are frequently abused to settle personal scores.

Last month, a Pakistani court ordered the release of a Christian married couple sentenced to death for blasphemy, lawyers said, weeks after the European Parliament blasted the country over the case.

Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar were jailed in 2014 after being convicted of sending a text message insulting the Prophet Mohammed - despite both being illiterate.

The couple's lawyer, Saif ul Malook, and prosecutor Chaudhry Ghulam Mustafa, told AFP the pair had been acquitted on appeal.

"I am very happy that we were able to get the release of this couple who are some of the most helpless people in our society," said Malook, who expects them to be freed next week after the court orders are published.

Kausar and Emmanuel were convicted following a complaint by a shopkeeper who claimed to have seen the text message.

In April, the European Parliament voted through a motion condemning Pakistan for failing to protect religious minorities, including Ahmadis, Shias, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs.

It said several dozen people are currently in prison on blasphemy charges.

"The situation in Pakistan continued to deteriorate in 2020 as the government systematically enforced blasphemy laws and failed to protect religious minorities from abuses," the resolution said.