A medical doctor, belonging to the minority Ahmadiyya community, has been arrested on charges of blasphemy in Pakistan for discarding a name-card of a medical sales representative into the dustbin. Reason: the sales rep. had "Muhammad" as part of his name on it. Can absurdity and lunacy get any better?

Bias, what can only be described as absurdity, is growing by leaps and bounds in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In the latest dreadful Blasphemy case, a popular Ismaili Physician of Hyderabad, Dr. Naushad Valiyani, has been arrested on charges of blasphemy. Besides his job in a Government hospital, the doctor also runs a private clinic in Doctor’s Lane in Hyderabad. He was arrested for discarding the visiting card of a medical sales representative, who had visited his clinic, into the dustbin. The reason? The said card included ‘Muhammad’ ahead of the visitor’s name, a commonly used prefix in Muslim name!

The doctor apologized to the Sales Rep, Muhammad Faizan, saying: “I meant no malice and did not intend to hurt the rep’s religious feelings”. A senior police official in Hyderabad has been quoted as saying that the man, who had felt slighted by the doctor’s action, had agreed to withdraw the complaint, but was pressured by the local religious leaders not to do so. And that is what led to the doctor’s arrest. The fact that he belongs to a minority sect may have some bearing on this, given that the more rabid Islamic mullahs in society tend to see all sects other than their own to be based on heresy.

The doctor was forcefully dragged to the Cantt Police station. There a settlement was reached between the Doctor and the Medical Rep. But a mob of a banned religious party forced police to file the case against Dr. Valiyani, instead of sparing him with no charges.

“The arrest was made after the complainant told the police that Dr. Valiyani threw his business card, which had his full name, Muhammad Faizan, in a dustbin during a visit to his clinic,” regional police chief Mushtaq Shah told AFP.

Faizan accused Valiyani of committing “Namoos-e-Rasool” [blasphemy against the holy prophet] and asked the police to register a case against the doctor.

Shah said the issue had been resolved after Dr. Valiyani, a member of the Ismaili community, apologized, but local religious leaders intervened and pressed for severe actions.Dr. Valiyani had assured Faizan that he did not mean to insult the Prophet Mohammed by throwing the visiting card in the dustbin,” Shah said, adding that the police had registered a case under the Blasphemy Act 295 C.

Please tell me, who is insulting the Prophet (PBUH) in this case (as in so many others)? Who is the real “threat” to the ‘Namoos-e-Rasoo“? Using the Holy Prophet’s name in vain and for “spreading personal and petty hatred is itself an insult to the Prophet’s message and person. Anyone who cares for ‘Namoos-e-Rasool’ should feel insulted and incensed at how this ‘namoo’” is being ridiculed by the purveyors of hate in the name of blasphemy,” Faizan said.

But police refused to confirm or deny the doctor’s release. Dr. Valyani was booked under Section 295-C on the complaint of Mohammad Faizan in FIR no 306/2010 on Saturday after he was handed over to the police by a group of enraged representatives of different pharmaceutical companies for his alleged blasphemous remarks. Supervisory Police Officer (SPO) Cantonment Bilal Umer, who heard the two parties before the registration of the case on Saturday, claimed that the case would be investigated by an SP. When he was contacted on Monday for update on the case, he said: “I call you back to discuss it.” But he didn’t respond since then. Dr. Valyani was shifted to the CIA centre of Hyderabad in an armoured personnel carrier soon after the FIR’s registration. A police source claimed that he was released on Monday morning. It is not known whether any remand was obtained for his police custody before the release. The incident took place on Dec 9 and the complainant lodged the case on Dec 11 following consultation with his friends, who had gathered outside Cantonment police station. The complainant’s cell-phone was also found switched off.

PMA PLEA: The Sindh chapter of the Pakistan Medical Association has called for a judicial inquiry into the allegations against Dr. Naushad Valiyani. Office-bearers of the association said at a press conference in Karachi on Monday that the association was concerned over the ‘orchestrated incident’, urging authorities to ensure security of life to Dr. Valiyani. The PMA called for a judicial inquiry into the violence against Dr. Valiyani and the arrest of those, who physically abused him.

The situation has become a terrifying one! What has happened in Hyderabad suggests that the police are being guided not by law, reason and commonsense, but by the thuggish behavior of the religious-right Mullahs and their extreme views, held by many honorable Muslim clerics in Pakistan, who speak and act as if they were guardians of everyone else’s morality and religious feelings…!!!

The act committed by the doctor is one most of us would engage in without a second thought? Hundreds of such cards are being tossed away across the country each day. That does not mean, we are engaging in acts of blasphemy and that all of us should be arrested, tried and sentenced to death.

Accusing someone of blasphemy has become a means to extract revenge — and in this not only non-Muslims but many Muslims have been accused. In this particular case, it would seem that perhaps the medical sales representative who first reported the matter to the police was not happy with the reception he received from the doctor. But the fact that even failing to receive a representative can lead to so grave a charge is horrifying. The latest incident, coming just weeks after Aasia Bibi, the mother of five, who was found guilty of blasphemy by a lower court, highlights the need to tackle the blasphemy laws urgently. Through the period of over two decades that they have been in place, they have been misused with greater and greater frequency. The police have abetted this by making arrests instantly, without any attempt to assess the matter or examine if there is any logic behind them.

Like the case of the Emperor’s proverbial new clothes, fewer and fewer are willing to speak against this absurdity. At the very least, the blasphemy law in Pakistan in its current state must be amended to prevent its gross misuse. The PPP government needs to take the lead in this matter. For starters, it can take ownership of a bill recently tabled in parliament by former information minister and MNA [PPP] Miss Sherry Rehman. Furthermore, the government should take a stand on this issue, because its continuing failure to do so only emboldens the clergy and the obscurantist, and cedes much-needed ground to the extremists. The media, for its part, needs to be more vigilant, especially the Urdu media, which is read by the bulk of the population, many of whom may not see anything wrong with what has happened in Hyderabad. It can be said with some justification that the English press’s railing against the law’s misuse, while good, is nothing more than preaching to the converted.

The courts must look at the need for justice and the apex court should, perhaps, exercise its suo motu jurisdiction in such matters without fear from extremists. If we don’t take a stand against this lunacy now,, there may be nothing to fight for in the not-too-distant future.

Maybe there should have a law against Muslim parents naming their children as ‘Muhammad’.

Let me confess if a Muslim has children with the first named ‘Muhammad’, and he ends up scolding them for not doing their homework. Would this also count as blasphemy?

For Allah’s sake, give us a break and stop lunacy and absurdity!

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