LAHORE - A group of lawyers are facing blasphemy charges after shouting slogans against a police chief named after a revered follower of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), officials said Tuesday. The incident came when lawyers in Jhang rose up against local police chief Umar Daraz after one of their colleagues was allegedly manhandled by officers following a road accident last week. They protested outside government offices on Monday, shouting slogans about the police chief that led to the blasphemy accusations.
“A blasphemy case has been registered against eight lawyers and about 60 others after a citizen complained that they were shouting slogans derogatory to a caliph of Islam and a companion of the hold prophet,” senior police official Ghulam Mustafa told AFP. Mushtaq Chaudhry, a local lawyer, said his colleagues were not shouting slogans against the caliph Umar, but his police namesake. “Our Bar Association has also passed a resolution that slogans were not raised against any sacred personality of Islam,” Chaudhry said. Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive subject in Pakistan, where the majority of the 180 million population are devoutly Muslim.
Even unproven allegations can provoke a violent public response. Mohammad Afzal Sayal, the President of Jhang Bar Association, said the protest was against the local police station chief but “certain elements tried to exploit it.” Sayal said the blasphemy case was brought after pressure from Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi, the head of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ). The charges brought against the lawyers carry a sentence of three years in prison, Sayal said.