Pakistan’s former prime minister, Imran Khan, has been charged with blasphemy along with 150 others, including Khan’s top allies. The police confirmed the First Incident Report (FIR) on Sunday, May 1, 2022.
In early April, Khan was removed from office after the parliament gave Khan a decisive vote on a no-confidence motion. Khan accused foreign powers of influencing Pakistan’s politics. He accused the US of masterminding his removal from office after being warned against a planned trip to Russia.
My question for the Biden Administration: By indulging in a regime change conspiracy to remove a democratically elected PM of a country of over 220 mn people to bring in a puppet PM, do you think you have lessened or increased anti-American sentiment in Pakistan?
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) May 2, 2022
Khan’s former Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Fawad Chaudhry, and former Interior Minister, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, were also booked.
The blasphemy charges were filed by Muhammad Naeem, a citizen of the city of Faisalabad. According to the FIR, the charges are linked to a group of pilgrims who protested against the new prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, ’s arrival in Saudi Arabia.
The charges accuse Khan and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), of desecrating the Masjid-i-Nabwi, a mosque supposedly built by the Prophet Muhammad himself. The leaders also included hooliganism and hurting the sentiments of Muslims.
The current state of intolerance is a poison for our society. Do politics. But that must end. Growing fascism in political parties is dangerous. If PDM politics was wrong then so is it and can't be supported shameful act in Saudi Arabia.#PMShehbazInKSA #Team_Defenders #Madina pic.twitter.com/v0ByCMGpHL
— Usman Qayyum (@IamUsmanAQ) April 28, 2022
Naeem accused Khan of carrying out a “planned and thought out scheme and conspiracy.” According to Naeem’s FIR, Khan and his allies organized the protests that called Sharif a thief and a traitor. Explicit languages were also directed to the new prime minister as he traveled to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi authorities said they arrested five Pakistani nationals over the protests.
Rana Sanaullah, the current Interior Minister, said the blasphemy charges are valid and justified. Sanaullah claimed that some demonstrators traveled from Britain to Saudi Arabia as part of Khan’s schemes.
Marriyum Aurangzeb, the new Information Minister, accused Khan of inciting violence against the Pakistani people in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Aurangzeb accused Khan of using the mosque for his political agenda.
Khan and his camp vehemently denied the allegation.
Khan dismissed the allegations and claimed that he could not imagine asking anyone to disrespect a sacred place. “I cannot think of asking anyone to do sloganeering at that sacred place. He explained that “nobody who loves the Prophet could even think of it.”
The former prime minister also questioned the validity of the charges against him and challenged his connection to the protests in Medina. Khan claimed that it was a public reaction. “We are not asking them to come out,” he said.
Several human rights advocates cried foul over the politicization of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemned the blasphemy charges against Khan.
In a tweet, HRCP declared that “no government or political party can afford to allow allegations of blasphemy to be weaponized against its rivals.”
The cases registered against senior PTI leaders under S. 295-A must be withdrawn immediately. No government or political party can afford to allow allegations of blasphemy to be weaponised against its rivals.
— Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (@HRCP87) May 1, 2022