Police Accused of Killing Pakistani Man Acquitted of Blasphemy Charge

CORRECTION: This article previously noted that Muhammad Waqas was murdered by Faisal Khan. Faisal Khan is accused of killing a American Tahir Naseem suspected of blasphemy. Muhammad Waqas’s killer remains unnamed as of the writing of this article.

On July 2, Muhammad Waqas — a man recently released from prison after being acquitted and cleared of blasphemy charges — was attacked and killed by a Pakistani police constable in Rahim Yar Khan City. Ahmed Nawaz, a police spokesperson, told reporters he was attacked and hacked to death by Faisal Khan, a 21-year old police constable who joined the police force just a few months ago.

Nawaz also added that Khan’s primary motivation to commit the attack was that Waqas committed blasphemy. Muhammad Waqas was charged with blasphemy, insulting Islam, back in 2016. The Lahore High Court had since overturned the charges in 2020. Waqas was released in the same year.

Waqas was hiding after his release, returning to his home a few weeks ago, Nawaz explained. Waqas is aware of the percussions of the court’s decision to acquit him of the blasphemy charges.

The blasphemy laws in Pakistan, a Muslim-majority country, carry a mandatory death penalty. However, Pakistani courts have yet to carry out an execution related to blasphemy charges.

This does not guarantee safety for individuals charged with blasphemy, even if the courts ruled against their cases or have acquitted them. In July 2020, Tahir Naseem, a US citizen of Pakistani heritage accused of blasphemy, was shot to death inside a courtroom in Peshawar.

The harassment and eventual killings following the acquittal of individuals suspected of blasphemy are becoming more common in Pakistan. It even resulted in Prime Minister Imran Khan responding to the EU Parliament’s criticism of these killings.

After the killing, Faisal Khan became famous and was supported openly by extremist religious organizations in Pakistan. Police officers have even been found taking a selfie with him while he was being taken into custody. 

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