Man cleared of blasphemy in Pakistan murdered by rookie policeman

Man cleared of committing blasphemy in Pakistan is hacked to death ‘by policeman who refused to believe he was innocent’

  • Muhammad Waqas was hacked to death on Friday in Sadiqabad, Pakistan
  • The suspect is a 21-year-old rookie police officer who believed Waqas was guilty 
  • Insulting the Prophet Mohammad carries the death penalty in Pakistan
  • Waqas was cleared of the blasphemy charge last year by the Lahore High Court 

A man acquitted of blasphemy charges has allegedly been murdered by a police officer in Pakistan. 

Muhammad Waqas was hacked to death on Friday in the central Pakistani district of Sadiqabad.

The suspect, a 21-year-old rookie police officer who joined the force just months ago, told investigators he killed Waqas because ‘he had committed blasphemy’.

Waqas was charged in a blasphemy case in 2016, accused of sharing content online that was insulting to the Prophet Mohammad. 

But his conviction was overturned by the Lahore High Court overturned last year, and Waqas was acquitted on all charges and released. 

In July 2020, Tahir Naseem, a US citizen of Pakistani origin, was gunned down and killed in a courtroom to face blasphemy charges. Though no one has ever been executed for blasphemy in Pakistan, accusations can lead hardline groups to seek vigilante justice

‘Waqas remained underground for sometime even after his release and returned home a few weeks ago,’ the police spokesman told Reuters.

Waqas initially faced trial over a Facebook post that was allegedly insulting to the Prophet Mohammad.

Insulting the Prophet carries a mandatory death penalty in Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim country. 

While courts have pronounced death sentences for some of those convicted, Pakistan has never carried out an execution over blasphemy charges.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have long been criticised by rights groups, because they are seen as giving cover to vigilantes to attack those accused of the crime, whatever the courts decide.

In July 2020, Tahir Naseem, a US citizen of Pakistani origin, was gunned down and killed as he stood before a judge in the northwestern city of Peshawar to answer blasphemy charges.

Faisal Khan, the teen suspect accused of killing Tahir Naseem last year, gained support from hardline religious groups who protested in the streets demanding his release

The teen suspect in the killing, Faisal Khan, was lionized in street rallies by hardline religious groups, and police escorting him took selfies to share on social media to show support for his actions.

In April, supporters of hardline religious group Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan clashed with security forces for weeks in cities across the country, taking police officers hostage and demanding Islamabad expel the French ambassador over the publication of cartoons in France depicting the Prophet Mohammad.

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