ISLAMABAD: A video showing a group of angry men at a Pakistani airport assaulting a former pop star accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) wife has gone viral, in the latest case of vigilante violence linked to blasphemy.
Junaid Jamshed, one of the pioneers of Pakistani pop in the 1980s, was leaving Islamabad airport on Saturday night when he was set upon by a group of around six men who were waiting to attack him at the exit.
The men, some wearing Western clothes while others are dressed in traditional shalwar kameez, are seen throwing punches at the 51-year-old, who is now a high-profile Muslim evangelist and also runs a chain of clothing boutiques. “You have committed blasphemy, hit him, hit him,” shouts one of the men in the mobile phone footage.
“We were looking for you,” says another. “He has disrespected the companions of Prophet Mohammed. He has blasphemed against the Prophet.” Jamshed was forced to flee back into the airport, and later posted on Facebook: “Its about time v as a nation decide that v will not let these religious fanatics prevail amongst us. They will be exposed n brought to task.”
A local police official in Rawalpindi confirmed the incident and said the ex-singer had filed a complaint. Most Internet users condemned the violence on social media. “Get hold of the culprits and make an example of them. Enough of this madness in the name of love,” wrote Facebook user Karami Elahi.
Many pointed to the fact that police and security seemingly failed to intervene, despite the outbreak of violence at one of the country’s busiest airports. A spokesman for the Airport Security Force was not available for comment despite repeated attempts.
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in the mainly Muslim country. The law is often invoked against minorities and the poor by those wishing to settle personal scores, according to rights group.
Jamshed’s case is more unusual. A video of him appearing to make negative remarks about the Prophet Mohammed’s youngest wife to make a broader point about women’s inherent flaws was widely shared in late 2014, which led to a blasphemy case being brought against him.
He publicly apologized and sought forgiveness, and the case did not proceed further. Jamshed was once one of Pakistan’s best loved pop singers, famous for hits such as “Dil Dil Pakistan”. Now bearded and seen in traditional attire, he often appears on TV adverts to give products religious endorsements.-AFP