In one of the most bizarre applications of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, police have charged at least 68 lawyers for committing profanity during a protest against the local police, officials said on Tuesday.
Lawyers in the city of Jhang in the country’s eastern province of Punjab took to the streets against local police for allegedly illegally detaining and thrashing one of their colleagues.
During the protest, they also chanted slogans against chief of the local police station, Umar Daraz, whose first name is similar to one of the close companions of Mohammed, the prophet of Islam.
Later on Monday, a sectarian group filed a complaint against the lawyers for using “foul language” against officer Umar, which they said hurt their religious sentiments, district police chief Zeeshan Asghar said.
The country’s controversial blasphemy laws were introduced by former military ruler Ziual Haq in the 1980s and there has been growing concern against their misuse.
Authorities have failed to amend them due to fear of backlash by extremist groups.
Former provincial governor Salman Taseer and Christian minister Shahbaz Bhatti were killed in 2011 for demanding changes to these laws.
Last week, a prominent human rights lawyer, Rashid Rehman, was killed in the city of Multan in central Pakistan for defending a university lecturer accused of blasphemy.