Ahmadi man charged with blasphemy in Pak



Lahore: A member of the minority Ahmadi sect has been charged with blasphemy for the second time by authorities in Pakistan's Punjab province for "posing as a Muslim" and for displaying a translation of a Quranic text in his shop.

Muhammad Ashraf, a jeweller from Sargodha, was charged under the controversial blasphemy law after a cleric named Hafiz Muhammad Imran complained against him to police.

Ashraf was earlier charged with his co-workers in 2009 for posing as Muslims. After being charged with blasphemy on July 23, Ashraf was sent to the Central Jail in Sargodha the following day.

He was released on bail after paying a surety of Rs 50,000 on July 31 and his case is being heard by magisterial court in Sargodha.

Imran came to the jeweller's shop on July 22 and asked him to remove a translation of a Quranic text that read: "O people of faith always speak the straight truth".

Ashraf refused to do so. The next day, police came to the shop and verified that the Quranic text was being displayed there before registering an FIR against Ashraf, The Express Tribune reported on its website.

According to the blasphemy law, an Ahmadi who "refers to his faith as Islam, or preaches or propagates his faith, or invites others to accept his faith, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations" will be punished with up to three years in prison and a fine.

In 2009, Ashraf and two other Ahmadi businessmen were arrested for "posing as Muslims" and for praying inside a room in the market.

After spending 28 days in jail, Ashraf and the other men were freed on bail. Ahmadis consider themselves Muslim but were declared non-Muslims through a constitutional amendment in 1974.

A decade later, they were barred from proselytising or identifying themselves as Muslims in Pakistan.

Some 1.5 million Ahmadis live across the country. Police in Punjab have taken action against several Ahmadi mosques this year. They demolished the minarets of an Ahmadi mosque at Kharian city, 200 km from Lahore, last month.

In March, couplets from the Quran written on tiles at an Ahmadi mosque at Sultanpura in Lahore were removed by police.

PTI