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Imam Jailed for Five Years Over Hate Speech

by AFP
Asif Hassan—AFP

Asif Hassan—AFP

Prosecutor says several preachers have been arrested and sent to prison over hate speech under National Action Plan.

An Anti-Terrorism Court has jailed an imam for five years over inciting hate against a rival sect, officials said Wednesday.

Maulana Abubakar, a prayer leader in Kasur, was arrested in February for making a speech against the minority Shia sect, a prosecutor told AFP. “The judge of an anti-terrorism court on Tuesday sentenced the imam to serve five years in prison for [giving a] hate speech,” the prosecutor said on condition of anonymity. “The imam was found guilty of inciting hatred against Shia [people] and raised slogans during his sermon that Shias were infidels,” he said.

The official said that under Pakistan’s National Action Plan against terrorism, authorities have arrested many prayer leaders and courts have sent them to prison over hate speech charges. The official said he could not give the number of convictions as data was still being compiled about the cases.

Shaikh Saeed Ahmed, a Lahore district prosecutor, confirmed the conviction and sentence awarded to the Imam.

Sectarian violence—in particular by Sunni hardliners against Shias, who make up roughly 20 percent of Pakistan’s 200 million people—has claimed thousands of lives in the country over the past decade. Last week, 44 Shia Muslims were massacred in Karachi in the first attack claimed by the Islamic State group in Pakistan.

The National Action Plan against terrorism, which involved the outlawing of militant groups, registration of seminaries and crackdown on hate speech, was announced in the wake of a Taliban massacre that killed 154 people, mostly schoolchildren, in December. Pakistan also lifted a six-year moratorium on the death penalty and announced the establishment of military courts in the case of terrorist offences.

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