Islamabad: The coffin of a promising young
Pakistani Hindu social worker, killed in the recent airliner
crash here, has been marked as "kaafir" or infidel, causing
anguish and revulsion among his friends and netizens.
Prem Chand, 25, a bright spark from the minority Hindu
community, was a member of the National Youth Parliament and
was heading to Islamabad from Karachi to attend the
organisation`s last session when the Airblue flight crashed
into the Margalla Hills on July 28, killing all 152 people on
Ehsan Naveed Irfan, a youth parliamentarian who
identified Prem Chand`s body, said the coffin was first marked
in black with the word "kaafir" and this was then highlighted
After identifying Prem Chand`s body, his friends
covered this by writing: "We love you ? from the youth
Since the day after the crash members of youth
parliament have been protesting against the marking on his
Muneeb Afzal, another member of the Youth Parliament,
said a mutual friend had covered the word "kaafir" on Prem
Chand`s coffin at the state-run Pakistan Institute of Medical
Sciences before his cousin Nanak Das could see it.
"It was shocking. He could have been marked as Hindu
or non-Muslim, but using the word `kaafir` is the worst
example of intolerance," Afzal said.
Afzal said he was aware that the marking of Prem
Chand`s coffin was not an "an official act" or "some state
sponsored standard procedure", yet it was "important for the
authorities to investigate and punish those responsible, and
set an example for future".
"Intolerance must not be tolerated. To tolerate it, or
justify it, is to accept it," he said.
"He (Prem Chand) called himself a social worker. No
person has the right to decide who goes to heaven or hell,"
said another youth parliamentarian at a condolence meeting
held for the six members who died in the crash.
Badeel Khan Janjua, who designed the T-shirt with the
message `I am Premchand, Label me kaafir`, suggested that a
"kaafir day" be celebrated in Pakistan.
Janjua said in an internet posting that it was "time
that such acts of religious bigotry are stopped once and for
Prem Chand, hailed from Sanghar in Sindh province. He
was married and had two children.
A self-made man, Prem Chand was the only educated
member in his poor family.
Friends and associates have described him as "a true
patriot", a "symbol of tolerance" and a "social worker who
spent his life trying to uplift the condition of his fellow
A "Remembering Premchand" page on Facebook has over
500 followers so far.
"As if the grief of a young son dying was not enough
for Prem`s parents, his coffin was marked as `kaafir`. We
stand in solidarity with his family and friends. We`re all
humans!" reads the note on the social networking website.
Premchand himself was active on Facebook and his last
status update seems chilling in the wake of his death.
"Comments can make a person and comments can break a
person. So be careful and ethical while giving comments for
someone," he posted.
Adil Najam at pakistaniat.com, a popular e-zine,
described Prem Chand`s death as a national tragedy and the
marking of "kaafir" on his coffin "a national disgrace".