Chinese worker accused of blasphemy in Pakistan denies allegation in court

Chinese

A Chinese national working in Pakistan has been accused of blasphemy denied the allegation in court but is to be remanded into judicial custody for two weeks, ANI reported. The man identified as Tian in the official police complaint has denied the accusation levelled by his co-workers during his court appearance in the city of Abbottabad on Monday evening.

On Wednesday that the accused was taken into custody as authorities investigate the incident, Al Jazeera reported quoting a local police official.

Blasphemy is a sensitive subject in Pakistan, a Muslim-majority country where those found guilty could be given the death penalty for certain forms of crime.

The Chinese national, who works as head of heavy transport at a major hydropower project, was accused on April 15 of insulting Prophet Muhammad for allegedly urging workers to speed up their pace of work as they took a prayer break, Al Jazeera reported.

The Dasu hydropower project in the Kohistan district of northwestern Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is being built by the China Gezhouba Group Company.

The allegation caused a large protest by residents who blocked the Karakoram Highway, which links Pakistan to China, and demanded the arrest of the accused.

Naseeruddin Khan, a police official in Dasu, said an investigation team has been formed to establish the facts.

“We are talking to the accused’s interpreter, who made the accusations, as well as other protesters,” he added.

He said the work on the hydropower project continues without any issues.

While Pakistan has never officially executed anyone facing blasphemy charges, numerous people over the years have been lynched by outraged individuals and mobs over such allegations or for expressing opposition to the harsh laws. Since 1990, more than 80 people have been killed in such violence, Al Jazeera reported.

In 2021, a Sri Lankan factory manager was beaten to death in Sialkot, a city in the central province of Punjab, by his co-workers who accused him of committing blasphemy.

In 2011, the former governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was shot dead by his own security personnel for expressing support for a woman accused of blasphemy. Three years later, human rights lawyer Rashid Rehman was killed for representing a university professor accused of making blasphemous comments.

China is one of Pakistan’s vital allies and the two countries are collaborating on a $60bn infrastructure project known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

In recent years, there has been a growing number of attacks against Chinese nationals in Pakistan with Beijing repeatedly asking Pakistani authorities to ensure security for its citizens and Chinese facilities in the country.

The Dasu hydropower project itself has faced delays in the past. At least 13 employees working on the site, including nine Chinese citizens, were killed in a suicide bombing in 2021. The attack led to the suspension of work on the project for six months.

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