Pak court orders release of Chinese national arrested on blasphemy charges

Islamabad: A Chinese national arrested in Pakistan on charges of committing blasphemy has been set free and shifted to an undisclosed location after he was granted bail by an anti-terrorism court, a media report said on Friday.

The court judge in the northwestern city of Abbottabad granted the suspect’s bail plea after he furnished a bond of Rs 200,000 as surety.

Quoting from the section pertaining to blasphemy, the judge ruled that the case did not come within the ambit of “reasonable ground” as the blasphemy charge was the “result of a misunderstanding”.

He said the police station concerned in Kohistan had registered a “false case” against the Chinese national.

The court ruled that, according to the record, no such offence was committed by the accused and hence he was granted bail, the Dawn newspaper reported.

The Chinese national was arrested in the Upper Kohistan district on April 16 after a mob blocked the Karakoram Highway, accusing him of committing blasphemy while exchanging arguments with labourers over long prayer breaks at the project site.

Two lawyers represented the petitioner in the court. The Chinese national was not brought to the court for security reasons. A deputy public prosecutor was also present in the courtroom, the report said.

The lawyers contended that their client was innocent, terming the blasphemy charge against him false.

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which was set up to probe the matter, placed records of statements made by the accusers and the Chinese national before the court.

Naseeruddin, the SHO of Kamila police station and the main complainant in the case appeared in court with records.

The judge ruled in his order that the three labourers and their interpreter, who had lodged the FIR two days after the incident, were neither able to produce evidence in support of their accusations in the court, nor could they prove charges in their statements before the JIT.

The judge said the interpreter was 35-40 feet away from the Chinese national, simply assuming that the former had uttered sacrilegious remarks.

Maulana Waliullah Tohidi, a member of Ulema Jirga constituted by clerics after the alleged incident, said the release of the Chinese national was a judicial matter and “we accept it wholeheartedly”.

He, however, said that the interpreter should be put on trial for “instigating the people of Kohistan to take to the streets”.

“We (Kohistanis) are patriotic Pakistani and will never allow anybody within the country, or outside, to sabotage the Dasu project at any cost,” Tohidi added.

Under Pakistan’s penal code, blasphemy is punishable by death or life imprisonment. Critics say the blasphemy laws have been used by extremist groups to persecute minority faiths and unfairly target minorities.

Several people have been killed by the extremists, though none have been executed under these laws.

These regulations were introduced by former military ruler Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s to win the support of religious groups.