Under the country’s strict blasphemy laws, a court in Pakistan recently sentenced a man to death for insulting God, despite his lawyers saying that he was insane when he wrote the sacrilegious slogans. Zulfiqar Ali, who is in his 50s, was taken into custody in Lahore in 2008 after he wrote blasphemous phrases against Islam and Allah across street walls.
Although Ali’s lawyer Kashif Ali Bokhari defended his client saying that he was insane at the time and clueless about what the consequences his actions could be, Judge Naveed Iqbal sentenced the defendant to death on July 14.
“Accused Zulfiqar Ali has committed the act of blasphemy by writing the abusive sentences towards the Holy Prophet on the walls of Nehru Park, Islampura. He was caught red-handed. Police came there. He was also used to utter derogatory remarks on hearing the call for prayers,” said Iqbal.
An addition to the death sentence, Ali was ordered to pay a hefty fine amounting to $10,000 if he wished to avoid spending an additional year in jail before being hung. Bokhari said that despite Ali being brought to court directly from the psychiatric ward of the prison, the judge felt that he was mentally competent and deserved to be punished with death.
“I pleaded in the court that he was insane but this plea was ignored,” Bokhari said.
While Pakistan has had a moratorium on civilian hangings since 2008, blasphemy continues to be perceived as one of the most culpable crimes in the country, where most of the 180 million residents are staunch Muslims. A recent study revealed that currently 14 people are on death row while 19 others continue to serve life sentences on grounds of blasphemy. Human rights activists insist that these strict blasphemy laws are often exploited by individuals to settle personal disputes.
Photo Credit: Jihad Watch