Pakistani boy jailed for blasphemy at age 8 faces death penalty

An eight-year-old Hindu faces the death penalty in Pakistan, accused of intentionally urinating in the library of a Koranic school. He is the youngest person charged with blasphemy in this country. After his release on bail, a Hindu temple was attacked by a Muslim mob, and his family had to flee.

An eight-year-old boy is now the youngest person to be jailed for blasphemy in Pakistan. He was taken into custody in the east of the country, accused of having deliberately urinated last month on a carpet in the library of a Koranic school, where religious books were kept. These charges can carry the death penalty, the Guardian reveals.

The child was released on bail last week. Enraged, a Muslim mob attacked a Hindu temple after his release. Troops were deployed to the area to appease residents, and 20 people were arrested after the attack.

The boy’s family was forced into hiding, and many members of the Hindu community living in the conservative Rahim Yar Khan neighborhood in Punjab had to flee their homes after the events.

Terror

Contacted by the British daily, a member of the boy’s family denied the blasphemy accusations. “He’s not even aware of these blasphemy issues. […] He still does not understand what his crime was and why he was kept in prison for a week.”

“We have left our shops and our work, the whole community is scared,” he added.

Such blasphemy charges against a child have shocked some legal experts, who say the move is unprecedented. No one so young had ever been accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, a conservative Muslim-majority country plagued by religious intolerance.

A highly sensitive subject

The crackdown on people suspected of blasphemy is quite frequent in this country, where it remains a very sensitive subject. The death penalty for blasphemy was introduced there in 1986.

Although it is rarely applied, suspects are often attacked and sometimes killed by mobs. The corresponding laws have been used disproportionately in the past against religious minorities, the Guardian observes.

In a report by Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission released in 2016, where four people were sentenced to death for blasphemy, Judge Ibadur Rehman Lodhi dismissed most of the charges, saying: “The majority of cases were based on false accusations, resulting from conflicts, personal or family settling of scores, rather than real cases of blasphemy”.

In 2017, a student known for his liberal and secular views on suspicion of blasphemy was excruciatingly lynched at a university in northwest Pakistan. In an investigation report, the police, for their part, concluded that the victim was innocent.

The same year, Pakistani justice sentenced to death a young citizen convicted of blasphemy on social networks for the first time.

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