LAHORE: In a first of its kind punishment in Pakistan’s judicial history, a special court on Thursday awarded five-year imprisonment to a man found guilty of using derogatory remarks against the second Caliph of Islam on his Facebook profile.
The court also slapped the convict with a Rs20,000 fine, which in case of default will be converted into an extra one-month imprisonment.
“The accused is the first offender as per the available record. Although ignorance of the law is no excuse, it must be said that cyber crimes are new to society,” opined Muhammad Aamir Raza Baitu, the judicial magistrate Section 30.
Sajid Ali, a resident of Bahawalnagar district, had used derogatory remarks against the caliph on his Facebook page and shared the same with his friends on social media on December 4, 2017.
At first, the local police lodged FIR 66/17 under Section 298-A of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and 16 MPO; however, the second FIR was lodged by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) under Section 11, 16 of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016 while the convict was already in custody.
It is pertinent to mention here that Sajid Ali’s conviction and sentence is the first of its kind in Pakistan’s history as never before did the court award a punishment on the grounds of sacrilegious, blasphemous and derogatory remarks against the companions (sahaba) of the holy prophet (PBUH).
While there are many cases of blasphemy against the prophet (PBUH) and the Quran, not a single one exists on the basis of disrespect and blasphemy towards the sahaba.
Keeping in view the complex nature of the trial, the FIA proved the case by using technical analysis techniques.
During the trial, FIA Assistant Director (legal) and prosecutor Munam Bashir Chaudhary established with his argument that accused Sajid Ali had a specific role in the offence attributed to him in the FIR. The prosecutor also produced screenshots of the remarks Sajid had written on his Facebook page before the court. He substantiated his arguments with technical data reports which connected the convict with the offence.
On the other hand, the accused’s counsel argued that Sajid was innocent.
“His mobile was not produced before the court during his trial,” he argued while adding that his client has been falsely accused with mala fide intention.
He also added that the original image of the disputed SMS and other material were also missing. “There is no proof to the effect that he uploaded the material,” he said.
Talking to Pakistan Today, FIA prosecutor Munam Bashir Chaudhary said that his team recovered all the material available on the accused’s Facebook account and got it technically examined which revealed the user’s password and name, proving his guilt of committing the crime.
“It is the first time that any person has been convicted over charges of committing the blasphemy of a companion of the prophet (PBUH) and the counsel for the accused could not challenge the veracity of the offence through his arguments before the court,” the prosecutor concluded.