How a student became a blasphemy suspect

Student accused of writing objectionable comments
Karachi, Feb 04: Constantly shivering, the 17-year-old student accused of writing objectionable comments in his first-year examination papers speaks in a very low voice.

"I was mentally disturbed. I was unaware of what I was doing. It was all unintentional."

Tears well up in his eyes and he looks down on the floor, thinking of what would happen if he was ever to leave the juvenile jail - his current home.

"I don't feel safe here either. I have been isolated from the rest of the inmates and I'm scared to tell them about the charges against me. They still don't know why I'm here. Outside, I know it would be much worse. I would have to change my name, and maybe my identity."

On Thursday, The News spoke exclusively to Syed Sami Ullah, who has recently been charged under the blasphemy law (Section 295-C) for writing offensive comments in his Islamiat and Physics examination papers held in April last year.

The student was sent to the juvenile prison on judicial remand till February 11 for allegedly writing blasphemous remarks in the answer-sheets on the complaint of the Board of Intermediate Education (BIEK). He was arrested on January 28 and presented before the court next day.

But what he did, he claims, is greatly linked to some past incidents. His father's death devastated his life and his cousins influenced his religious beliefs. These and other happenings, the boy says, misled him into writing the offending remarks.

The lean-framed teenager repeats: "I was under severe mental stress, and whatever I did was unintentional. I did not mean it, and I deeply regret what I did."

He stops for a while and then looks back into his past.

"In 2008, my father who was working in the air force passed away. I was traumatised. Being the eldest of my siblings, I felt a huge responsibility on my shoulders to support the family," he wipes the sweat off his brow.

The family went into financial straits, surviving on the pension of the deceased.

"I wanted to get good grades and a good job to earn a living for my family. When I got 69 percent marks in Matric, I was very upset. Since my father's death, I've been under so much stress. I can't stop shivering since then."

When Sami's cousins from Norway paid him a visit, they worsened his mental condition.

"I used to pray five times a day and recite the Holy Quran. But when my cousins came, they influenced my beliefs and discouraged me from following the religion."

It was a hard phase, Sami believes. A fight was taking place inside him - between good and bad, right and wrong.

"I was double minded and confused about a lot of things. Whether what my cousins are saying is true, or what I've been practising all my life. During my first-year exam last year, I did not know what I was writing in the paper. It was unintentional."

When the pre-engineering results were announced in November, Sami Ullah's result had been withheld. He knew there was something wrong. After 10 months, in January this year, the Intermediate Board broke its silence and issued him a show-cause notice, followed by a visit by the controller examinations and his colleagues. They asked the boy to write an apology.

"They told me to write an apology and asked me to confess to my crime. I thought that after my apology, they would understand my mental status and would forgive me. I was wrong. They rather filed an FIR at the Shahra-e-Noor Jahan police station."

On January 28, he was arrested, thrashed and beaten up the whole night at the police station, before being brought to the jail.

"My family says that they are not being threatened, but I know things will become difficult for them soon. For the time being, my neighbours are supporting my family."

It was the boy's neck or mine: Commenting on the case of Sami Ullah, Chairman Intermediate Board of Karachi Anwar Ahmed Zai admitted that he was aware of the severe repercussions of the case.

"It was the boy's neck or mine. I was aware of the harsh consequences which the boy and his family would have to go through, but we could not do anything. Our legal adviser advised us to take action against the boy, or else we would be in hot water. The professor who checked the papers had sent reports about the incident to other places. My hands were tied."

When Controller of Examinations BIEK Agha Akber Mirza, also the complainant in the case, was asked as to why the board decided to take action 10 months after the incident, he said that the papers were checked in September and then an Unfair Means Committee investigated the matter to verify Sami Ullah's writing.

He said that the boy had apologised, but still they had to highlight the case due to its sensitive nature. "The crime is severe."

Need for psychiatric evaluation: Human rights activists and psychologists have called for a psychiatric evaluation of the accused boy, saying Sami seems to be suffering from a mental disorder.

Prominent psychiatrist Prof S Haroon Ahmed told The News the boy might be suffering from Obsessive Compulsion Disorder, in which an idea against the person's belief system keeps recurring in his mind. Such extreme thoughts can torture him with guilt and depression.

"Such thoughts could also be against one's religion. The person is fearful of disclosing such thoughts in public, and due to the fear and guilt, is compelled to divulge them. In this case, the boy wrote them down. I suggest that a psychiatric evaluation of the boy is carried out."

Representatives of the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc), who have also visited the boy, called for establishing a medical examination board to assess the boy's mental status.

"Sami Ullah is mentally disturbed. We demand that a board should be set up, and he be examined thoroughly."

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School, college timings in Sindh revised
Karachi: The Sindh Education and Literacy Department has notified the timings of morning shift schools and colleges in the province for the academic session 2010-11 with immediate effect.

An announcement here on Thursday said that the timings would be as follows:

Single Shift Schools (Primary): Monday to Thursday and Saturday from 8.00 am to 2.30 pm and Friday from 8.00 am to 12.00 noon.

Double Shift Schools (Primary): First Shift-Monday to Thursday and Saturday from 8.00 am to 12.30 pm and Friday from 8.00 am to 10.30 am.

Second Shift-Monday to Thursday and Saturday from 12.45 pm to 4.45 pm and Friday from 10.45 am to 12.45 pm.

Secondary Schools: Single Shift Schools:

Monday to Thursday and Saturday from 8.00 am to 2.30 pm and Friday from 8.00 am to 12.00 noon.

Double Shift Schools: First Shift-Monday to Thursday and Saturday 7.45 am to 12.45 pm and Friday 7.45 am to 10.00 am.

Second Shift-Monday to Thursday and Saturday from 1.00 pm to 5.00 pm and Friday 10.45 am to 12.15 pm.

Colleges (Science/ Arts/ Commerce): Monday to Thursday and Saturday (Normal Shift) from 8.30 am to 2.00 pm and Friday from 8.30 am to 12.00 noon.

Evening Shift (Arts and Commerce): Monday to Thursday and Saturday (Normal Shift) from 4.00 pm to 9.00 pm and Friday from 2.30 pm to 6.30 pm. The news

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FUUAST announces MA IR result
Karachi: The Controller of Examinations, Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (FUUAST), Prof. Waqarul Haq, has announced the result of MA private (International Relation) 1st year annual examination 2009, held on July 2010. According to the result, 278 candidates appeared in the examination and out of them 232 passed it.

FUUAST MSc exam schedule: The Controller Examinations, FUUAST, Prof. Waqarul Haq has announced schedule of MSc (Final Year) annual examination 2010. According to schedule, the paper of Marine and Fresh Water Biology will be held from 2:30pm to 5:30pm on February 4, 2011 at MSc Block of FUUAST. ppi

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Teachers seek promotion
Hyderabad: Activists of the Government Secondary Teachers Association's Tando Allahyar chapter took out a procession and staged a sit-in on Thursday in protest against non-acceptance of their demands by the EDO.

GSTA leader Mehar Khaskheli said that the DCO had approved their demands but the EDO was not implementing them.

He demanded removal of the EDO and said that timescale promotions already approved by the government should be given to teachers.

MPA Imdad Ali Pitafi and DPO Munir Ahmed Khuhro later persuaded the protesters to call off the protest.

A delegation of teachers also met DCO Dr. Shafqat Hussain Abbasi and apprised him of their problems. SDAC:

The leaders of Sindh Doctors Actions Committee announced on Thursday that doctors would hold a demonstration at the civil hospital Hyderabad on Friday to press for acceptance of their demands.

The leaders Dr. Pir Manzoor Ali, Dr Rafiq Qureshi and Dr. Gulzar Jumani demanded that 11,000 doctors of Sindh working in general cadre, specialist cadre and dental surgeons who had been waiting for promotion for 23 years should be granted promotions under timescale promotion formula. Dawn

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