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Pakistan: Dreams of murder

Sunday 3 April 2022, by siawi3


Dreams of murder


Published March 31, 2022 - Updated 3 days ago

HORRIFIC as it was, the cold-blooded murder of a seminary teacher in D.I. Khan by three of her students on allegations of blasphemy is yet another sign of the increasingly toxic social environment we live in. The incident was not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last unless the state decides to stop accepting, cajoling and using religiously inspired extremists for short-term political gains, and, instead, punishes them and their leaders for taking the law into their hands. What sets this incident apart from similar atrocities linked to blasphemy accusations, is its frighteningly surreal dimension. The three young girls aged 17, 21 and 24 — barely adults themselves — who allegedly murdered their teacher told the police that a religious personality had appeared in a dream to their 13-year-old relative to tell her that the teacher had committed blasphemy. It is a terrifying thought that the suspects had no qualms about going ahead with their deed — in fact, deeming it necessary. Further investigation will reveal the truth — was it a case of being brainwashed by the anti-blasphemy narrative or was there another reason?

Sadly, others too have resorted to murder in similar situations. Both those accused of committing blasphemy, such as university student Mashal Khan and Sri Lanka factory manager Priyantha Kumara, and those defending the accused against such allegations, including Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and lawyer Rashid Rehman, were killed. No doubt the killers were emboldened by the inaction of the state. Otherwise, blasphemy-related accusations would not reach such high numbers — 1,300 between 2011 and 2021, according to the Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies. Meanwhile, in instances where the accused are acquitted of false charges, as in the case of Asiya Bibi, the extremist culture makes it very difficult to ensure their safety after their release. Blind extremism will keep on taking lives unless the authorities take radical steps to revisit the blasphemy law and ensure punishment for both those who indulge in false accusations and those who resort to violence.