Karachi: police have arrested a
teenage boy for allegedly blaspheming in an exam, causing
controversy today and putting the Muslim country`s hardline
law under a fresh spotlight.
The case, condemned by human rights groups, comes a
month after one of Pakistan`s most liberal politicians was
shot dead by his bodyguard for wanting to reform the law,
recently used to sentence to death a Christian mother.
"Sami Ullah wrote a blasphemous comment in an
examination, which examiners reported to police," police
investigator Qudrat Shah Lodhi said.
He said the privately educated 17-year-old Muslim
apologised to the exam board in the financial capital of
Karachi, considered the heart of moderate Pakistan, but the
apology was not accepted and the matter reported to police.
"Police arrested the boy in Karachi`s North Nazimabad
area on January 29 and sent him to jail on judicial remand,"
North Nazimabad is a middle class neighbourhood in the
sprawling metropolis of 16 million on the Arabian Sea. The
boy`s father is a civil servant.
Police refused to divulge the offending comment in the
exam paper, out of fear that they would fall foul of the
blasphemy law for repeating it.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Pakistan to drop the
charges immediately and ensure the teen`s safe release from
"Pakistan has set the standard for intolerance when it
comes to misusing blasphemy laws, but sending a schoolboy to
jail for something he scribbled on an exam paper is truly
appalling", said Bede Sheppard, senior children`s rights
researcher at HRW.
"It`s bad enough that a school official flagged it,
but for police and judicial authorities to go ahead and lock
up a teenager under these circumstances is mind boggling."
Liberal politicians and human rights activists in
Pakistan say the blasphemy law, which carries the maximum
sentence of death, is too often used to settle personal scores
and encourages Islamist extremism.
Pakistan`s powerful religious right praised last
month`s killer of Punjab governor Salman Taseer and the
government has said it will not amend the law.
Those sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan
have had their sentences overturned or commuted on appeal.