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More Blasphemy Deaths in Pakistan

Paul Marshall

On Friday, March 4, the funeral was held for Shahbaz Bhatti, the Christian cabinet minister who was murdered by extremists for his opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

On the same day, accusations of blasphemy claimed eleven new victims, including one child.

One was Muhammad Imran, who in April 2009 was charged with blasphemy for allegedly making insulting remarks about the Prophet during a discussion in a village cafĂ©. He was released by court order after the prosecution failed to produce evidence. On Friday he was in a shop in Danada, near Rawalpindi, when two attackers came in and shot him dead. According to Imram’s brother, one of the killers was the same man who had made the original blasphemy accusation.

Also on Friday, ten people, including a child, were killed and 30 others injured, eight seriously, when a bomb blast blew up a mosque inside a Sufi shrine, the Akhun Punjo Baba mazar, in the Akbarpura area of Nowshera, near Peshawar. The bomb went off just after prayers had ended and was heard several kilometers away. So far nobody has claimed responsibility, but the attack bears the hallmarks of the Taliban, who have been attacking Sufi shrines throughout Pakistan, claiming that shrines honoring saints are blasphemous.

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