A 30-year-old Pakistani man of the minority Shiite faith has been sentenced to death by a local court for sharing content that was found to be blasphemous against Islam on social media. He was arrested last year on allegations that he posted offensive content about both Sunni Muslim leaders and the wives of Mohammed.
Taimoor Raza, who hails from Bahawalpur in eastern Punjab province, was handed the ultimate sentence by Judge Shabbir Ahmed after government prosecutor Shafiq Qureshi successfully argued that Raza was showing people objectionable material on his cell phone at a bus terminal, in addition to his objectionable Facebook presence.
Raza was arrested by Bahawalpur’s counter-terrorism force in April 2016 after authorities received a complaint about his alleged blasphemy, a crime that is punishable in Pakistan by death if a person is found to have insulted God, Islam, or other religious personages.
Blasphemy-related arrests are uncommon in the country; only 15 people, including ten Muslims and five non-Muslims, were arrested on blasphemy charges last year according to a report released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
While the state has yet to execute a person convicted of blasphemy, there have been numerous occasions of a person accused of the crime being targeted by angry lynch mobs. Critics of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws claim that they are merely used by vindictive sorts to silence their opponents or get back at personal enemies.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif embarked on a campaign earlier this year to cleanse the country’s social media of any content deemed blasphemous or otherwise insulting to Islam. His administration asked Facebook and Twitter to help locate and identify any Pakistani Facebook users who are posting offensive content – no matter if they are in the country or not – so that authorities could bring blasphemy charges against them, pursuing extradition if necessary.