Published on 12 August 2021 in Blasphemy news

Pakistan: charges against 8-year old dropped

The End Blasphemy Laws (EBL) Coalition welcomes the decision of the Pakistani authorities to drop charges of “blasphemy” levied against an 8-year-old boy in Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab province. The boy was briefly the youngest person to be charged with “blasphemy”. According to the Guardian, the police officers who had charged the boy are under arrest

Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, special representative of the prime minister on religious harmony, told the Guardian that,

“The charges against the boy were baseless […] Minorities are equal citizens and these are illiterate people attacking worship places.”

In late July, an 8-year old Hindu boy was accused of intentionally urinating on a carpet in the library of an Islamic religious school, where religious books were kept. Details on how the situation escalated to the boy being charged are unclear. The child spent one week in jail without understanding the situation, a family member told the Guardian. The boy and his family are now in protective custody for fear of reprisals.

When the child was released on bail earlier this week, anger broke out in the conservative Muslim community. A crowd attacked the local Hindu temple, burning down the door and destroying the idols. Hindu residents of Rahim Yar Khan reportedly fled their homes in fear of further escalation.

“More than a hundred homes of the Hindu community have been emptied due to fear of attack,” the Pakistan Hindu Council told the Guardian.

On 5 August, Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter to condemn the attack on the temple, promising that the government would restore it and that police would take action. The temple was handed back to the Hindu community after repairs were completed. Dozens of suspects have been arrested in connection with the attack and were informed they will be liable to pay for the repairs, according to the authorities.

Attacks on places of worship have been increasing in the last few years, including the Mata Rani Bhatiyani Mandir Hindu temple in Sindh in January 2020, the Sikh Gurudwara Shri Janam Sthan in January 2020, and a Hindu temple in Karak in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in December 2020. The government in Pakistan has reportedly failed to address the issue.

Blasphemy allegations regularly provoke vigilante violence but also targeted killings of “suspects”, lawyers and government officials. Last week’s incidents attracted attention from senior officials in Pakistan and India. The attack on the temple invited a strong security presence and repairs were rapidly ordered. The charges against the young boy were dropped following an international outcry.

The End Blasphemy Laws Coalition welcomes the decision of Pakistani authorities to drop “blasphemy” charges against the child, and calls on the Pakistani government to ensure the safety of the child and his parents. In addition, the Coalition urges the authorities to repeal its “blasphemy” laws in order to avoid such occurrences in the future.