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Pakistani policeman kills man acquitted of blasphemy

Catholic leader condemns religious extremism after a man is hacked to death with a cleaver in Punjab

Pakistani policeman kills man acquitted of blasphemy

Rescue officials recover the body of Muhammad Waqas in Sadiqabad, Punjab province. (Photo supplied)

Human rights activists in Pakistan have condemned the murder of a man who was acquitted of blasphemy charges last year.

Muhammad Waqas was hacked to death with a cleaver on July 2 as he was returning to his home in Sadiqabad, Punjab province.

Attacker Abdul Qadir, who had recently started training as a police constable, also injured his brother. He later surrendered to police.

Waqas was charged with blasphemy in 2016 for sharing blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Mohammad on social media. According to an initial investigation, Qadir planned to kill him but Waqas was sent to jail in 2017. Lahore High Court overturned his conviction in 2020 and Waqas was released from prison.

Photographs of a blood-soaked cleaver and the victim’s body are being shared on social media. “Just saw in a police [social media] group. All are raising slogans of Takbir [Allahu akbar] and saying Mashallah [God has willed],” stated Fareed Ahmed Fareed, a Muslim writer, in a Facebook post.

Peter Jacob, the Catholic director of the Centre for Social Justice, condemned the killing.

The situation is so scary and serious that not a single entity can control it

“This is another example of increasing religious extremism. The situation is so scary and serious that not a single entity can control it. This shadow of terrorism and obsession can’t be detected by any detector,” he said. 

In 2016, Pakistan executed a former police bodyguard who gunned down Punjab governor Salman Taseer over his opposition to the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.

In 2011, Catholic businessman David Qamar was found dead in his prison cell in Karachi while serving life imprisonment for blasphemy. He was arrested in 2006 for being in possession of a phone used for sending derogatory messages insulting Prophet Mohammad.

The Catholic bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace suspected that Qamar had fallen prey to an active hate campaign by extremist groups.

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In 2004, a policeman attacked Christian laborer Samuel Masih, who had been accused of blasphemy, with a hammer while Masih was receiving treatment at a government hospital. Masih, who was already suffering from tuberculosis, died three days later. 

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