A Pakistani court has denied bail to three persons belonging to the minority Ahmadi community who were arrested under blasphemy charges for sharing alleged objectionable religious content in a WhatsApp group.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Cybercrime Wing has recently arrested Mahmood Iqbal Hashmi, Shiraz Ahmad and Zaheer Ahmad from Lahore and booked them under various sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA).
The FIA took action against the Ahmadi community members on a complaint of an individual, Mohammad Irfan, who alleged that they have added him to a WhatsApp group which contained blasphemous material.
On their bail petition, the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Saturday heard the arguments from both sides and rejected their plea on the ground that “declaring a person may transmit any offensive material if he/she is not its author thereof would be a recipe for disaster”.
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LHC judge Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh also observed that “the petitioners created a WhatsApp group and perusal of the screenshots of the conversation between them and other members reflected that its purpose was to provide a platform for the propagation of the Qadiani/Ahmadi faith”.
Rights activist and counsel for the petitioners Advocate Hina Jilani told the LHC that the complainant was a ”religiously motivated person predisposed against the Ahmadis”.
She also questioned the competence of the FIR saying PPC Section 295-A under which they were arrested could be prosecuted only on the complaint of the federal or the provincial governments.
A law officer and a counsel for the complainant gave arguments and opposed the bail petitions.
Pakistan’s Parliament in 1974 declared the Ahmadi community as non-Muslims. A decade later, they were banned from calling themselves Muslims. They are banned from preaching and from travelling to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage In Pakistan, around 10 million out of the 220 million population are non-Muslims.
According to the 2017 census, Hindus constitute the largest religious minority in Pakistan. Christians make up the second largest religious minority. The Ahmadis, Sikhs and Parsis are also among the notable religious minorities in Pakistan.