Dozens accused of blasphemy languish in jail for years. A Chinese man has been promptly released on a $700 bail.
by Massimo Introvigne
Pakistan has a set of laws, collectively known as the “blasphemy law,” punishing blasphemy against Islam with the death penalty. The notion of blasphemy is interpreted extensively, and many cases are fabricated by Muslim extremists. Christians, Hindus, and members of other minorities accused of blasphemy languish in jail for years, unless they are lynched by angry mobs. Some, such as Asia Bibi, are liberated only thanks to international mobilization.
Yet, it seems it is possible to be accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, arrested, and released after a few days on a $700 bail. It is possible if you are Chinese, that is.
The China Gezhouba Group Company is building the Dasu hydropower project in the Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. On April 15, the Chinese head of heavy transport at the project, complained that Pakistani workers were spending too much time in prayers during Ramadan. According to the workers, he screamed at them and included derogatory remarks against God and Prophet Muhammad.
Local residents took to the street to protest, and the man was arrested. For much less, Christians and others accused of blasphemy have been kept in jail for years under inhumane conditions, prosecuted, and sentenced to death (even if most death verdicts have been overturned by higher courts).
The Chinese, however, appeared before the Court of Abbottabad, where a judge granted him bail against a bond of 200,000 rupees ($700), and ordered the police to protect him.
We at Bitter Winter regard Pakistan’s blasphemy law as a tool of discrimination, oppression, and murder, and are certainly more than happy when somebody escapes their clutches. However, the double standard is spectacular. Those who commented about the pictures that appeared on Twitter noted the comparatively relaxed attitudes of the Muslim clerics and police officers when the Chinese was arrested, in contrast with others accused of blasphemy who are photographed terrorized and with obvious signs of violence.
Pakistan’s connection with China runs so deep that even the sacrosanct blasphemy law can be circumvented—if you are Chinese.