Thirteen years of prison and a fine of ($2,300) – only for an offensive Facebook posting of a Shia sect member in Chiniot, Punjab, in Pakistan. The case hasn’t evoked a media furor but is another alarming example of the judicial vandalism that is rampant in Pakistan under the current government.
ABS-CBN is one of the few media outlets that published the AFP story of the case. Saqlain Haidar, the 32-year-old, Shia man got the prison sentence and the fine from an anti-terror court after he was reported by locals for posting what they deemed “hateful material against companions of the Prophet of Islam on Facebook”.
The news reveals he was arrested last month on 27th and in less than a month, his case was concluded. This speedy justice indicates fast-tracking of the case – which is exactly what the anti-terrorism courts were meant to achieve. The case appears wrong on every level – human rights, legal course, and religious.
Posting what is considered derogatory or hateful material about companions of the prophet of Islam would at worst fall under the blasphemy law. It’s one right that fundamentalist Muslim governments deny their citizens and is considered blasphemy, including any offensive commentary on the prophet(s).
One could expect it to be treated as a blasphemy case in a regular court. But dealing such matters terrorism speaks more about the mindset of the law-enforcers than the accused. Taking such cases to anti-terror courts is an obvious sign of sectarian victimization. Shia sect has always been under attack in Pakistan – in fact worldwide as Saudi Arabia hates Shia and has bought the west and east with it oil to sponsor terror and overthrow Shia leaders, including Syria’s Bashar-al-Assad.
Questions arise about the seriousness of the offense itself. Delivering a hate speech is different from expressing hate or contempt for somebody on one’s Facebook page. Hate speeches incite violence. But criticizing figures from the past are not hate speeches. Yes, they can be blasphemous as Islamic law considers such criticism, yet not an act of terror or even incitement to the same. Since there is no report of any act of violence resulting from the accused’s posting(s), the court’s sentence is outrageously unjust.
Interestingly, clerics like Abdul Aziz, whose hate speeches are known to radicalize young Muslims and lead to acts of violence in Pakistan, are easily acquitted by courts after temporary arrest. Where does the justice of these so-called anti-terror courts go in such high-profile cases?
Since the commencement of the PML-N government started in Pakistan in 2013, both military dictatorship and judicial tyranny have taken over the country, and the sitting government has danced to the tunes of Saudi influence and its own military forces to strip civilians of every basic right.
And the media? Well, it’ll suffice to remind that just last month, the federal government banned electronic media from criticizing Saudi Arabia after hundreds of Pakistanis died in the huge stampede at Hajj in Saudi Arabia and critics raised fingers at the poor Saudi management that led to the tragedy.
About the Author
Ernest Dempsey is a writer, editor, blogger, and journalist based in Orlando, FL. He runs a popular blog Word Matters! at http://www.ernestdempsey.com/ and edits the journal and its blog Recovering the Self. Dempsey is a sceptic, vegetarian, and advocate for animal and human rights.