Pakistani Ahmadi arrested on blasphemy charges

April 01, 2014 - 6:27:57 pm

KARACHI: A member of Pakistan's minority Ahmadi community was arrested for allegedly desecrating a Koran in southern Pakistan, police said Tuesday, the latest invocation of the country's controversial blasphemy laws.

Tahir Ahmed was arrested Monday night in the town of Tando Allahyar, 240 kilometres northeast of the port town of Karachi after a mob overran his residence and an Ahmadi mosque on its ground floor following the allegation.

Ahmed, who is in his forties, was said to have "roughed up" a child and thrown a copy of the Koran he was carrying, senior police officer Javed Baluch said.

"We are investigating the matter," said Baluch.

Pakistan has extremely strict laws against blasphemy, including the death penalty for insulting the Prophet Mohammed, and rights campaigners say they are often used to settle personal disputes in a country where 97 percent of the population is Muslim.

Ahmadis, who believe that the founder of their sect was a prophet, were declared non-Muslims by the Pakistani government in 1974 and now suffer discrimination and violent attacks.

Sanaullah Abbassi, another senior police officer, confirmed the incident, adding: "The area remains tense and we are trying to pacify the people."

Police said local religious activists took to the streets to protest after the incident.

"The court has granted us Tahir Ahmed custody for two weeks," Baluch, the police officer said.

Also on Tuesday, a Pakistani man sentenced to death for blasphemy appealed against his conviction, saying the charges were trumped up to speed the eviction of minority Christians from their land.

Sawan Masih was convicted last week of insulting the Prophet Mohammed during a conversation with a Muslim friend in the Joseph Colony neighbourhood of Lahore in March last year.

A recent report from a US government advisory panel said Pakistan used blasphemy laws more than any other country in the world, listing 14 people on death row and 19 others serving life sentences for insulting Islam. (AFP)