Blasphemy case not required over Masjid-i-Nabwi incident: IHC

• Court observes religion can’t be exploited for personal, political gain
• Nominated PTI leaders were not in Saudi Arabia when incident occurred

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has observed that the leadership of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, including its chairman Imran Khan, nominated in the first information report registered in connection with the Masjid-i-Nabwi incident, was not present at the occurrence, while the Saudi government has also not identified or sought their custody. Therefore, registration of blasphemy case against them was not required.

A written order released by the IHC on Saturday on the identical petitions filed by PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry and others seeking to quash the FIRs reg­istered in connection with the said incident said that the contents of complaints lodged by private citizens did not fulfil requirement for invoking sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) related to blasphemy against PTI leaders.

“A plain reading of the FIR registered in District Faisalabad, prima-facie, shows that the offences are not attracted to the extent of the nominated leadership of PTI” observed the IHC.

“It is an admitted position that the leadership of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf was not present at the place where the incident had taken place. It has also not been denied that the authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have taken cognizance of the detestable conduct and proceedings have been initiated against the persons who were involved”, said the court order authored by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah.

Moreover, the government has not received any information from the Saudi authorities suspecting involvement of the PTI leadership, the order further said.

The court noted that religious sentiments ought to be respected but, simultaneously, it is the obligation of the state, as defined under Article 7 of the Constitution, to take appropriate measures to ensure that religion is not allowed to be exploited and used for personal or political gains.

It is an undisputed fact that religion has been exploited by organs of the state in the past and such exploitation has led to putting lives of innocent persons at grave risk. The misuse of, and registration of false/fake cases under offences described under Chapter XV of the PPC has created an environment of intolerance and has encouraged vigilante extrajudicial killings, observed Justice Minallah.

He referred to the gruesome mob lynching of Mashal Khan in 2017 and Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana recently in Sialkot and termed these as the “tip of the iceberg.”

Such vigilante killings are the worst form of violation of fundamental rights and intolerable in a society governed under the Constitution, he observed.

“The reckless registration of false/fake criminal cases in relation to offences described under Chapter XV of PPC exposes innocent victims to grave risk and thus it is violative of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution,” the court order states adding that “it is an obligation of the State and each organ, described under Article 7 of the Constitution, to ensure that recklessness in registration of criminal cases in relation to offences described under Chapter XV of the Constitution is avoided and dealt with effectively.”

The court directed the interior ministry to obtain reports from the respective provincial governments. Moreover, the federal government has been directed to ensure that no case is registered against the PTI leadership unless there is verifiable information regarding their involvement in the incident.

The petitioners have alleged that politically motivated criminal cases are being registered in relation to the incident.

Justice Minallah asked the federal government to take appropriate measures to dispel the alleged perception of exploitation or use of religious sentiments in the context of registration of criminal cases.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2022

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