Islamabad: Three members of the persecuted Ahmadiyya community have been sentenced to death in Pakistan’s Punjab province for committing blasphemy by tearing up posters that demanded a boycott of the minority sect.
They have also been fined Rs 200,000 each and in case they don’t pay the fine, they would undergo six months of rigorous punishment, a PTI report said.
Additional District and Sessions Judge of Sheikhupura district of Punjab province Mian Javed Akram announced the verdict on Wednesday after the prosecution submitted evidence and presented all witnesses in the case.
A blasphemy case was registered against them in May in 2014 for tearing religious posters, the report said.
According to Sharqpur police station official Muhammad Ashar, the people had displayed posters in the village urging a social boycott of the Ahmadiyya community. “The posters carried Islamic verses,” he said.
On removing the posters, a complaint was filed against the three men that led to their subsequent arrest.
The convicts admitted before the court that they had removed the posters for demanding a social boycott of Ahmadiyya community but not to commit blasphemy, the report said.
Their counsel will challenge the verdict in the higher court.
On Wednesday, ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s son-in-law Mohammad Safdar launched a tirade against the Ahmaddiya community, demanding their exclusion from the government and military service.
The Ahmadiyya community was declared non-Muslims in Pakistan through a constitutional amendment in 1974 during the tenure of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
This measure was later followed with former president Gen Ziaul Haq, making it a punishable offence for Ahmadiyyas to call themselves Muslim or to refer to their faith as Islam.
The community is also banned from preaching as well as from traveling to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage. They are also not allowed to publish any material propagating their faith.
Members of the community in Pakistan have often been targeted. Since 1984, when the blasphemy laws were amended to include several Ahmadi-specific clauses, more than 250 have been killed, according to a data collected by the community.