Stakes rise in Afghan journalist’s blasphemy case
When we wrote about the death sentence for blasphemy against Afghan journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh two days ago, it seemed the case was set to trudge through the appeals system and land up at the Supreme Court in Kabul. That, at least, is what his brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, told us. Now the upper house of the Afghan Parliament has raised the stakes in a way that may turn this into a messy tussle between Afghanistan and the Western countries trying to help prevent it becoming a failed state.
The upper house, known as the Meshrano Jirga (Elders House), has issued a statement backing the death sentence passed by a court in Mazar-i-Sharif and strongly criticising the international community for putting pressure on Kabul over the case. No excerpts from the statement have appeared online yet but some reports say it was signed by the house leader Sibghatullah Mojaddedi. He was the first president of Afghanistan after the fall of communism there in 1992. During his exile in Peshawar in the 1980s, he was the head of the so-called “moderate alliance” of three mujahideen parties that were believed to be less Islamst than the seven-party “fundamentalist alliance”. However, these two labels were relative, as are many terms and titles in Afghanistan.
The upper house has no legal role in this but, by speaking out, it puts pressure on President Hamid Karzai not to pardon Kambakhsh at any point during the appeals process. It also sends a signal to the appeals and supreme court.
The Institute for War and Peace Reporting argues the case is political and meant to punish Kambakhsh’s brother Yaqub, who has written about alleged human rights abuses in Afghanistan for the institute.