Blasphemy on Facebook Results in Death Sentence and Fine in Rawalpindi

Rawalpindi: Anti-Terrorism Special Court, led by Judge Malik Ijaz Asif, has sentenced a man from Chakwal to death for blasphemy offences committed via social media. The court also imposed a 32-year prison term and a fine of Rs. 0.5 million on the convict. The Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) cybercrime wing registered the case in August 2018 under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, Pakistan Penal Code (Sections 295-A, 295-B, and 295-C), and the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2016 for using a Facebook account to post controversial speeches and images.

This case has a complex history involving multiple judicial assessments. Initially, Judge Shaukat Kamal Dar of the same court had sentenced the individual, Ibtisam Mustafa, to life imprisonment and an additional 20 years for actions intended to outrage the religious feelings of both Muslim and Christian communities. Mustafa was accused of using derogatory remarks about the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and insulting Christian religious sentiments by demeaning Prophet Jesus. He was also fined Rs. 1 million.

However, this initial conviction was overturned by the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) following an appeal. The LHC ordered a retrial, directing the trial court to reconsider the judgement and clarify the grounds for acquittal or conviction. During the rehearing, the evidence was reassessed, leading to the reaffirmation of the blasphemy charges under Section 295-C and additional charges under Section 295-A for offending Christian religious sentiments.

This ruling not only reinforces the stringent blasphemy laws in Pakistan but also highlights their profound implications for freedom of expression and interfaith harmony. The legal proceedings and the court’s decision reflect the judiciary's commitment to upholding these laws amid ongoing scrutiny both nationally and internationally.