Two Pakistani women get death sentence for ‘blasphemy’ murder of teacher

Women aged 23 and 24 sentenced to death while a minor is jailed for life for the 2022 killing of a young teacher.

Pakistan has been hit by a spate of high-profile blasphemy cases in recent weeks [File: Fayaz Aziz/Reuters]

Two Pakistani women have been sentenced to death for murdering their religious school teacher who they accused of committing blasphemy, police said.

A district judge on Wednesday handed down the death penalty to two and a life sentence to one upon proving their involvement in the murder of Safoora Bibi in Dera Ismail Khan city in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in March 2022.

The pair sentenced to death are aged 23 and 24 while the one sentenced to life in jail is 16 years old, a local police official said.

Blasphemy is an incendiary charge in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unproven allegations of insulting Islam have provoked deadly vigilantism.

Police said the convicted women first injured their 18-year-old teacher with a stick at the gate of the school and later slit her throat, according to a report in Dawn news website.

They committed the murder after one of their classmates told them about a dream she saw in which the teacher had committed blasphemy, and that her killer “would be given the glad tidings of paradise,” said the report.

The teacher’s uncle told the police he found his niece tortured and slaughtered in the street after he was informed of the incident. Police recovered knives and sticks from the accused when they were arrested, said the Dawn report.

The death penalty is technically allowed in Pakistan and courts regularly hand down the sentence, but there have been no executions since 2020, according to Amnesty International.

Before that, executions of women were not frequent, but many female inmates have languished on death row for years.

Pakistan has been hit by a spate of high-profile blasphemy cases in recent weeks.

In February, police were forced to intervene in the eastern city of Lahore when a woman wearing a shirt adorned with Arabic calligraphy was surrounded by a mob accusing her of blasphemy.

The crowd of men said the clothing depicted Quranic verses but it was in fact emblazoned with the Arabic word for “beautiful”.

Pakistan’s top Supreme Court judge has also been targeted by veiled death threats after ordering the release of a man accused of disseminating a blasphemous text.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies