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Pakistan's former minister of Foreign Affairs and PML (N) stalwart Khawaja Asif
Pakistan's former minister of Foreign Affairs and PML (N) stalwart Khawaja Asif

Pak ex-foreign minister Khawaja Asif facing blasphemy charges speaking for religious equality

ANI | Updated: Jul 14, 2020 15:43 IST

Islamabad [Pakistan], July 14 (ANI): Pakistan's former minister of Foreign Affairs and PML (N) stalwart Khawaja Asif is facing blasphemy charges for speaking against the religious inequality in the country.
A blasphemy complaint has been filed against Khawaja by ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) president Zafarwal Tehsil, Qamar Riaz Sulehri for saying that "all religions are equal" in the light of the constitution.
On Thursday, Khawaja Asif on the floor of the House said that the constitution of Pakistan provides equal rights to all citizens irrespective of their caste, creed, and religion. He criticised a group of lawmakers for opposing the construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad.
"The people who were against the temple belong to a group that had labelled Muhammad Ali Jinnah - the founder of Pakistan- as kafir-e-Azam." He added that no religion was superior to the other in the light of the constitution, adding that as representatives of people, it was incumbent upon lawmakers to promote harmony and tolerance in the society.
The speech by Asif prompted an outrage, as extremist circles demanded the government to register a case against Asif for alleged 'blasphemy'.

Later, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif issued a statement, wherein he said that the remarks made by Asif were within the provisions of constitution and Islam.
Shehbaz Sharif, who is the leader of the Opposition in National Assembly tweeted, "Islam, our great religion, is categorical about the rights and freedoms of all communities living in Islamic State. Equality is a fundamental principle enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan. What Khawaja Asif said in NA (National Assembly) was in the context of Islamic teachings and constitutional provision!"
The construction of Shri Krishna Mandir, the first Hindu temple planned for Islamabad, was stopped by Islamists despite Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered the government to provide about 1.3 million for the structure.
Several clerics ruled that no Hindu temple should be built because Pakistan is a Muslim country. Citizens denounced the government for using their taxes to provide funding for the temple. Under mounting pressure, the government backtracked from its initial pledge to donate money asking for guidance from the Council of Islamic Ideology on whether to give the grant.
Religious minorities in Pakistan - be it Hindus, Sikhs or Christians - are facing persecution for the past several decades. Those who support these religious minorities are being charged with draconian blasphemy law.
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom tweeted, "USCIRF is alarmed by a #blasphemy complaint filed against MP Khawaja Asif after he stated in the National Assembly that all religions are equal. USCIRF urges Pakistan to conduct an expedited review of all blasphemy cases". (ANI)