Rights panel, activists condemn Pakistan professor’s arrest on blasphemy charges

A Human Rights Alliance meeting has condemned the arrest of Assistant Professor Sajid Soomro of the Shah Abdul Latif University (Salu) in Khairpur on blasphemy charges and threat by activists of a religious party to lodge an FIR against Sindh University Teachers’ Association president Prof Dr Arfana Mallah.
The meeting chaired by Prof Mushtaq Mirani and attended by Imdad Chandio, Prof Badar Soomro, Jami Chandio, Taj Joyo, Haseen Musarrat Shah, Mahesh Kumar and others, noted that police were being pressured to register an FIR against Dr Mallah.
It expressed its concern over attempts by some extremist elements to undermine freedom of expression in Sindh.
“They are pressuring police to misuse the blasphemy and national security laws against enlightened, democratic and progressive forces, as well as organizations, in Sindh,” the meeting observed.
The meeting regretted that Khairpur police had already registered such FIR against Sajid Soomro.
They also expressed concerns over the fact that a religious-political party, misinterpreting a Facebook post of Dr Mallah, was pressuring the Bhitai Nagar police of Hyderabad to register a blasphemy case against her.
It pointed out that a mob had surrounded the Bhitai Nagar police station on Wednesday to get the FIR registered but left after submitting an application with the police.
The meeting urged progressive forces and intellectuals of Sindh to play their role in curbing extremism. It also urged the provincial government to take bold steps to end an environment of insecurity.
“No one should be allowed to turn the peaceful land of Sindh into a centre of extremism. Every citizen of Sindh, including women, would protect the secular, peaceful and mystic identity of Sindh”, the participants of the meeting said.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and other organizations have also condemned the misuse of the blasphemy law in these two cases.
HRCP expressed its alarm at the wave of vicious attacks saying Prof Soomro and Dr Mallah have done nothing more than exercise their fundamental right to freedom of expression as citizens and academics.

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