Throughout the world there are some very strict religious laws, and Pakistan has some of the most inflexible. Last week Pakistani police sweeped down on the home of Jahanzaib Khaskhili in the town of Tando Adam. His crime was unclear at first but it was soon revealed to be for the selling of shoes which carried a sacred Hindu symbol on them.
The shoes carried the ‘om’ symbol which is held sacred in the Hindu religion. The arrest was supported by the local Hindu community leaders who called for the shopkeeper to be punished for this supposed crime. The blasphemy laws sound quite reasonable on first glance simply making it a crime to insylt any of the major religions, There are specific extremist sections too though including defiling the Koran or insulting a certain Prophet Mohammad which carry either a life sentence or a mandatory death sentence.
So what’s going to happen to the poor shopkeeper? Well the sentence for his particular ‘crime’ is slightly more lenient but still could be up to 10 years in jail plus some sort of fine. Ali is reported to be cooperating with the police and authorities and is claiming he was completely unaware that he was committing a crime. The police chief seemed to be sympathetic to these claims and is likely to be lenient.
They were also now pursuing the supplier of the footwear, who is also based in Pakistan but in the neighboring Punjab province.
What is evident though that visitors to Pakistan should be extremely careful about what hey do or say when in Pakistan. It is easy for visitors from liberal areas like Europe to inadvertently break strict laws especially around religion. It’s best to avoid any discussions or situations involving religions unless you are actively participating.
If you’re using the internet and or messaging try to use only protected or secure sites. In fact it’s advisable to only post anonymously on social media sites, plus use encryption to protect your actual data and connection. Many people in these countries routinely use a VPN like this to protect themselves and of course access region locked internet sites.
James Jennings, author: UK Proxy Online: 2012 Nomad Publishing