August 30, 2023 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1714

X Users In Pakistan Make Hashtag Against Pakistani President Arif Alvi Trend, Accuse Him Of Committing Blasphemy Against Muhammad's Companions, Call For His Hanging

August 30, 2023 | By Mantasha Ansari*
Pakistan | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1714

On August 21, 2023, Pakistani users of the platform X, formerly called Twitter, started a hashtag in Urdu that reads "Enemy of the Prophet's Companions Arif Alvi," accusing Pakistani President Dr. Arif Alvi of committing blasphemy against the Companions of Prophet Muhammad.[1] Some of the X users also demanded the death penalty against the president. Within 24 hours, there were more than 44,500 tweets and retweets on the subject condemning the president.

A day earlier, President Alvi announced that two laws – the Pakistan Army Act and the Official Secrets Act – had been amended without his signature, indicating that the Pakistani military establishment was behind the legislative manipulation by his official staff. In a tweet, Alvi wrote: "As God is my witness, I did not sign Official Secrets Amendment Bill 2023 & Pakistan Army Amendment Bill 2023 as I disagreed with these laws."[2]

The Supreme Commander of Pakistan's armed forces further tweeted: "I asked my staff to return the bills unsigned within the stipulated time to make them ineffective. I confirmed from them many times that whether they have been returned and was assured that they were. However, I have found out today that my staff undermined my will and command. As Allah knows all, He will forgive IA. But I ask forgiveness from those who will be affected."[3]

While the Pakistani president's public denial that he signed the two bills has put him in conflict with the Pakistani military, it appears that Alvi returned a total of 13 bills unsigned, one of which – the Code of Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill, 2020 – drew the ire of Islamist groups in Pakistan. This amendment was aimed at increasing the punishment from the existing three years to ten for blaspheming the companions, wives, and family members of Muhammad.[4]

A tweet accuses the bill of compromising the honor of the Companions of Muhammad.

In Pakistan, anyone convicted of blasphemy against Muhammad can be sentenced to death. The proposed changes in the criminal laws of Pakistan specifically raised the punishment to ten years for acts of blasphemy against the the Companions of Muhammad.

Religious activists launched a hashtag in response to President Alvi's decision to return this bill, with some even calling for his hanging. Ihasan Ullah Khan (@IhsanMarwat_786) – an account that has more than 37,000 followers and belongs to the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) party headed by leading Islamic religious scholar and politician Maulana Fazlur Rehman – demanded: "Give death penalty to the enemy of Companions Arif Alvi."[5]

X user Hafiz Adeel demanded the death penalty, writing: "Arif Alvi should be hanged publicly."[6] Another user, Faiz Ur Rehman, declared that President Alvi has become a unbeliever: "The companions are the standard of truth and the foundation of religion; Blasphemy against the honor of companions of Muhammad is unbelief."[7]

A tweet by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam member Ihsan Ullah Khan: "Hang Arif Alvi"

Editors JUI Force (@Editors_JUIF) – another X account belonging to JUI – supported the hashtag and cited "an order of Prophet Muhammad for Muslims associated with the enemies of the Companions." The graphic reads in Urdu: "Save yourself from the blasphemers of the Companions! The last Prophet said, 'very soon a nation will be born which will abuse my Companions and will try to lessen their honor. You should not mingle, eat, drink and marry with such people.'"[8]

Khatam-e-Nabuwwat Media (@KNMedia64), which has more than 52,000 followers and represents Islamic groups, condemned President Alvi and warned in a graphic: "We will continue to defend the honor of the Companions; We will continue to sacrifice our lives for the Companions."[9]

It appears that the hashtag was led mainly by the followers of Maulana Fazlur Rehman. On August 22, an X account shared a video clip of Mufti Asad Mehmood, an Islamic cleric and son of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, in which he warns: "We are silent so that the system of the world is not disturbed; They think that there is no strength in our appeal."[10]

Abdus Salam Rakiti called for the hanging of President Arif Alvi

In an August 21 tweet, Syed Adnan Badshah, who has more than 37,000 followers, wrote: "Arif Alvi's [act shows] apathy toward religion and an attempt to become the agent of the enemies. A bill was sent to Arif Alvi that was in favor of the Companions, that stipulated punishment for those committing blasphemy against the dignity of the Companions. Arif Alvi raised an objection to the Bill and made the enemies of Islam and the Companions happy but did not bother about the sentiments of millions of Muslims living in Pakistan."[11]

Badshah further wrote: "The enemies of Islam celebrated the returning of this Bill and organized programs at several places and expressed the view that even anybody's father cannot get this Bill passed. The threats from the enemies of Islam make it clear that there will be blessing by the President of the state, and they have been assured that, as long as I am [in office] this Bill cannot be passed."[12]

In an August 21 tweet, Muhammad Sami Swati, deputy information secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam for the Sindh province who has more than 105,000 followers, demanded President Alvi's resignation: "Morally, there is no justification for Arif Alvi to remain in the position of President. The rejection of the Bill about the honor of the Companions will prove to be his worst downfall. Allah willing."[13] 

This graphic quotes late terror commander Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhanvi, the chief of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a jihadi group especially known for killing Shi'ites in Pakistan, as saying there was no space for leniency in his heart for blasphemers of Muhammad's Companions.

Malik Muaaz, another X user who has more the 27,000 followers, tweeted: "All Muslims should send curses on this filthiest man..."[14] Ihsan Ullah Khan (@IhsanMarwat_786) wrote: "For us, no personality equals even the dirt on the shoes of the Companions. [We] fight the war for the honor of the Companions at every front. The believers should take part in this trend."[15]

In support of the hashtag, M. Jafar cursed "the persons who are lenient toward the enemy of the Companions."[16] His tweet from August 22 included a photo of Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, the late terror mastermind and chief of jihadi terror group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, along with a quote by Jhangvi: "Allah has not given such width in my heart that I be lenient toward the blasphemer of the Companions of Muhammad, peace be upon him."[17] Another X user, Abdul Islam Rakiti (@Iam_Rakiti), wrote: "Hurting my Prophet (the enemy of companions Arif Alavi) should be hanged on the throne."[18] Syed Asim Ali Shah, who has a channel on YouTube, tweeted: "Not signing the Bill regarding the Companions, the wretchedness and anti-Islam agenda of Arif Alvi and PTI [Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party] has been revealed."[19]

A tweet warned: "We will continue to sacrifice our lives for the Companions."

* Mantasha Ansari is a Research Assistant at MEMRI's South Asia Studies Project.


[1] The Companions of Muhammad, called the Sahaba in several Middle Eastern languages, were those who had seen or met Muhammad during his lifetime and assisted him in establishing the religion of Islam.

[2], August 20, 2023

[3], August 20, 2023

January 17, 2023.

[5], August 21, 2023

[6], August 21, 2023

[7], August 21, 2023

[8], August 21, 2023. The tweet cites Kanz-ul-Ummal, Vol.11, No. 32465, as the source for this hadith.

[9], August 22, 2023

[10], August 22, 2023

[11], August 21, 2023

[12], August 21, 2023

[13], August 21, 2023

[14], August 21, 2023

[15], August 21, 2023

[16], August 22, 2023

[17], August 22, 2023

[18], August 21, 2023

[19], August 21, 2023

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