Push-Cart Vendor Convicted For Selling Hate Material In Jhelum
An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Rawalpindi convicted a cart owner known as Saifullah, alias Saifi, for selling ‘hate material’.
He was convicted for selling CDs on his cart that contained hate speech. The conviction, rare as it is, entails 10 years in prison and a Rs100,000 fine. According to the verdict issued by ATC judge Rai Mohammad Ayub Khan Marth, the convict will have to serve another four months behind bars if the fine is not submitted.
The cleric who delivered the speeches the convict was selling however, remains at large.
“Countering hate speech and extremist material” is part of the 20-point agenda of the National Action Plan (NAP), introduced by the federal government in the aftermath of the Dec 16, 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.
The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) on May 22, 2015 arrested Saifullah, a cart owner from Jhelum, for selling CDs containing speeches by the cleric Mulazim Hussain Dogar. The CD is titled ‘Collection of Speeches of Maulana Mulazim Hussain Dogar Volume IV’.
Saifullah, who is 26, sells goods on his cart in a market in the Jhelum district to provide for his family.
According to the prosecution, Dogar may be the principal suspect in the matter, but he could not be apprehended because his whereabouts remained unknown.
There is, however, a Facebook page running under his name which currently has 3,149 followers. According to the page, Maulana Mulazim Hussain is a public figure, and a “famous scholar of Islam from Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat” (ASWJ). ASWJ is a banned outfit, according to the list of proscribed organisations.
According to a CTD inspector, the investigating officer did not try to investigate the cleric or his role in the matter. He said the investigation focused exclusively on the suspect, but added that the government has already proscribed ASWJ and had banned the cleric from making public speeches.
PTI MNA Mohammad Sarwar Khan said that unless the government takes strict action against the delivery of hate speech, sectarianism and religious extremism would not be curtailed.
“Action against the CD seller containing hate material is good, but the root cause – which is the clerics who deliver hate speeches – should also be arrested and punished accordingly,” he said.
Analyst Imtiaz Gul said that NAP is big on promises, but fails to deliver due to questionable political will. He said the legal system also lacks the capacity and will to prosecute the real offenders.
“The government is also unable to prosecute the troublemakers because of electoral constituencies considerations, and the other issue is corruption within the system and lacunae in the anti-terrorism laws,” he added.
This is not the only case in which law enforcement agencies have arrested individuals for the possession of hate material but failed to take action against those who professed such sentiments in the first place.
In October 2014, Aabpara police registered a case against 16 clerics for delivering hate speech at the Aabpara Community Centre, but did not take them into custody. The clerics recently obtained pre-arrest bail from the sessions courts.
Saifullah was arrested by Inspector Liaquat Ali in Jhelum, and was brought to Rawalpindi for “further investigation”, where CTD registered a case against him under the Anti Terrorism Act 1997 (ATA).
According to the prosecution, the CDs contained hate speech against a religious sect.
The accused was charged under Sections 9 and 11-W of the ATA, for the possession of hate material and the dissemination of hate material, respectively.
The prosecution produced six witnesses to testify against the accused, all of whom were police officials.
According to the public prosecutor, Imran Qaiser, Saifullah committed the offences by displaying and selling the CDs and deserved to be punished under the relevant sections of the law.
The court verdict stated: “The accused was found selling CDs containing hate material and hence he was promoting and projecting the proscribed organization.”
This news was previously published in DAWN and it is being republished here with permission.