A Chinese national working at the Dasu Hydropower Project in Upper Kohistan was taken into police custody on Sunday night following accusations of blasphemy made against him by laborers at the site.
According to Komila SHO Naseeruddin, the arrest has been confirmed, and a first information report (FIR) has been registered against the accused. The complaint, which invokes Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, was lodged by Gulistan and Yasir, both of whom are heavy vehicle drivers.
As per the complaint, on Sunday night, police official Jehanzeb was informed of a mob attempting to break into a Chinese camp near Barseen. The locals had staged a protest and damaged the camp’s site number 6. The police party reached the site after receiving the information, took control of the area and safely shifted the accused to the Komila police station.
However, the complaint mentioned that a large number of people reached Komila in the early hours of Monday and blocked the Karakoram Highway once again, shouting slogans. The protesters only opened the highway for traffic after the police assured them of the registration of the FIR. Local religious leaders also urged the demonstrators to call off the protest.
The incident is one of many instances in which people have been accused of blasphemy in Pakistan. According to a report by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in January 2022, as many as 89 citizens were killed in 1,415 accusations and cases of blasphemy in the country since independence. From 1947 to 2021, 18 women and 71 men were extra-judicially killed over blasphemy accusations. The allegations were made against 107 women and 1,308 men.
Read More: 89 citizens killed over blasphemy allegations since 1947
Misuse of blasphemy laws is often described by courts as an unlawful act, according to the report. The Islamabad High Court had previously suggested to the legislature to amend the existing laws to give equal punishment to those who level false blasphemy accusations. The origin of the blasphemy laws dated back to the British era when they were promulgated in 1860. Initially, four blasphemy laws — section 295, 296, 297, and 298 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) — were introduced, and in 1927 section 295 was supplemented by 295-A after the case of Ilmuddin, a Muslim carpenter, who killed Mahashe Rajpal for publishing a blasphemous book.
Blasphemy accusations have led to violent and deadly incidents in Pakistan, including the stoning to death of a middle-aged man by a mob over alleged desecration of the Holy Quran in a remote village of Khanewal district in February 2022. In another incident, a Sri Lankan engineer was lynched by factory workers on blasphemy charges in Sialkot on December 3, 2021.