Pakistan lawmaker released on bail after being pardoned for religious comment

A lawmaker of Pakistan’s ruling party was on Wednesday released on bail after he was pardoned by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special assistant for calling him a Qadiani, a member of the minority Ahmadi community.

Lahore Police on July 27 arrested Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker Nazir Chohan, who is part of the party’s estranged Jahangir Tareen group, for calling Mirza Shahzad Akbar, Special Assistant to the prime minister on Accountability and Interior, as a Qadiani.

Following Akbar’s complaint, Chohan, who is also a legislator of Punjab Assembly, was booked by the Federal Investigation Agency. He was sent to jail on judicial remand after the court rejected his bail plea on merit.

On Tuesday, Chohan apologised to Akbar for levelling a “baseless allegation” against him following which Akbar pardoned him and told a sessions court in Lahore that he would have no objection if Chohan was released on bail in the case.

An affidavit submitted before the court by Akbar’s lawyer stated: “Accused Nazir Chohan admitted his mistake, sought an apology and showed remorse over his false allegations against the complainant for which the complainant had forgiven him.”

After Akbar’s statement, the court granted Chohan bail, and he was released from Kot Lakhpat Jail here.

Pakistan’s Parliament in 1974 declared the Ahmadi community as non-Muslims. A decade later, they were banned from calling themselves Muslims. They are banned from preaching and from travelling to Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage.

Akbar had said Chohan’s remarks about his religious beliefs, calling him a Qadiani, have put his and his family members’ life at risk.

Chohan in a TV talk show in May had claimed that Akbar is a ‘Qadiani’ and challenged him to say on oath that “he is a Muslim and not an Ahmadi”.

In response, Akbar filed a complaint with Lahore Police, which registered an FIR against Chohan on various charges, including making statements with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings and provoking to cause riot.

In Pakistan, around 10 million out of the 220 million population are non-Muslims.

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