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Four booked on blasphemy charges in Jamshoro

Four people, including two women, were booked on blasphemy charges in Jamshoro on Thursday for solemnising a marriage under what is known as "Shariat-i-Latifi" (the Code of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai) police told Dawn.

Khanot police lodged first information report (FIR) No. 22/17 under Section 295-A of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) after a video clip surfaced showing a woman solemnising the marriage of a man and a woman under "Shariat-i-Latifi".

Section 295-A of the PPC deals with "deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting Its religion or religious beliefs."

It says: "Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the 'religious feelings of any class of the citizens of Pakistan, by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations insults the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both."
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In the video, the bride's father, invites the first woman to solemnise the marriage. "[She] will perform nikkah of my daughter while reciting Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai’s poetry. This will be the first nikkah which will be performed on the basis of ‘Shariat-i-Latifi’ and in the Sindhi language," the clip showed the father as saying.

"This nikkah will be recited with the name and prayers of those daughters of Sindh and heroes who have been fighting for the freedom [of Sindh]," he added.

The women who solemnised the marriage is said to have clarified her position on social media but refused to comment when contacted by Dawn.

Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Bashir Ahmed Janwari in the FIR said that eight to 10 other unidentified people were also present at the ceremony.

The father of the bride was arrested and remanded to 14 days in judicial custody by a court in Kotri today, while Senior Superintendent Police (SSP) Irfan Bahadur said the other accused in the case would also be arrested accordingly.

Sindhi intellectuals, on the other hand, condemned the case against the woman who solemnised the marriage and others.

The lawyer who offered to represent her before the Sindh High Court said she would move the court for bail. He also asked the state to take responsibility for her protection.

"Say a big no to mob justice and religious orthodoxy," Sindhi intellectual Jami Chandio wrote on Facebook. He condemned the FIR against two "peaceful political activists", the groom and the woman who performed the ceremony.

"It is an act of harassment; no religious party or group and even government should be allowed to use religion as an instrument to victimise or harass peaceful citizens," he wrote.

"The Sindh government which claims to be secular shouldn't play at the hands of fanatic elements. Why [has] an ASI has lodged [an] FIR against them? Conscious people in the Sindh Assembly must raise voice in assembly on this issue," he added.

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