Accused in separate incidents in Punjab province face up to 10 years imprisonment if convicted.
A teacher and a Sufi preacher have been arrested on blasphemy charges in two separate incidents in Pakistan, police said on Saturday.
The preacher was arrested in the village of Changa in Daska district of Punjab province for preaching things “contrary to Islam,” said local police station chief Javed Hussain. “Saeen Aslam was arrested on Friday over blasphemy charges on the complaints of locals that he had been asking the villagers to stop offering prayers and just bow before him,” Hussain said.
Islam forbids Muslims to bow before anyone except Allah and doing so also falls under country’s blasphemy law.
Hussain said Aslam had started preaching at a local shrine of Sufi saint Panj Shaheed some three months ago and had been acting strangely.
In a second incident in the Punjab town of Kamalia a college teacher was arrested on Friday for beating up a student from the minority Shia sect who absented himself to attend the annual Ashura procession last week. “Police have arrested a teacher Faraz Ahmed for thrashing his Shia student Zainul Abideen because he missed his class to attend his religious rites,” said local police official Mohammad Farooq.
Ahmed has been charged under the blasphemy law for assaulting the student because of his faith and detained, he added.
Both Ahmed and Aslam face up to 10 years jail time if convicted, police officials said.
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan. Anyone even accused of insulting Islam risks a violent and bloody death at the hands of vigilantes. Rights groups complain the controversial legislation is often abused to carry out personal vendettas.
The cases emerged one day after the Supreme Court delayed an appeal against the death sentence meted out to a Christian woman in 2010 for blasphemy. Asia Bibi was accused of insulting Islam’s Prophet, punishable by death under the blasphemy law, in a notorious case that has seen rights groups and the Vatican call for her release.
Her final court appeal was due to be held on Thursday in Islamabad, but was delayed after one of the three-judge bench claimed he had a conflict of interest. No new date has been set.