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Two Christians Studying Bible in Park Charged with Blasphemy in Pakistan

Posted by on February 17, 2021 — Drop A Comment


February 16, 2021 – Police in
Lahore, Pakistan have charged two
Christians with blasphemy after
Muslims objected to their Bible study in
a park, the attorney for one of the
accused said.
Haroon Ayub Masih, 26, and friend
Salamat Mansha Masih, about the
same age, were studying the Bible in
Lahore’s Model Town Park on
Saturday (Feb. 13) when a group of
Muslims approached and told them
they should not read the Bible in public,
attorney Aneeqa Maria of The Voice
Society said.
When Haroon Masih told them that
reading the Bible in public was not a
crime in Pakistan and that they had no
right to stop them, the Muslims began
questioning them about their Christian
faith and asked if they had any reading
material to help them understand the
Bible, Maria said.
“On their insistence, Haroon gave them
a Christian book entitled, ‘ Zindagi Ka
Paani’’ or ‘Water of Life ,’” said Maria,
who represents Haroon Masih. “The
youths took the book and left Haroon
and Mansha for the time being.”
Haroon Masih returned home a few
minutes later, while Mansha Masih
remained in the park, she said.
“A few minutes later, the Muslim
youths returned to the spot where
Mansha was present and attacked him,
claiming that he and Haroon had
blasphemed against their prophet,”
Maria told Morning Star News. “They
also summoned the park’s security and
lied to them that the two Christians
were evangelizing to Muslims in the
park and had used derogatory words
for the Koran and the prophet
[Muhammad].”
Maria said someone from the group of
Muslim friends, which was led by
Haroon Ahmed, then called the
Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a
far-right Islamist political party
reportedly behind most blasphemy
cases against Christians and the
Ahmadiyya, a sect originating in Islam
that Muslims repudiate. A TLP co-
founder, Muhammad Afzal Qadri, called
for the death of three Supreme Court
justices involved in the 2018 acquittal
of Christian Aasiya Noreen (Asia Bibi),
who had been wrongly convicted of
blasphemy and condemned to death.
TLP leaders arrived, and under their
pressure police registered a case
against the two Christians for
derogatory remarks against
Muhammad (Section 295-C of the
Pakistan Penal Code), punishable by
death; defiling the Koran (Section 295-
B), punishable by imprisonment for life
and fine; and deliberate and malicious
acts intended to outrage religious
feelings (Section 295-A), punishable by
up to 10 years in prison and a fine,
Maria said. The complainant is listed
as Haroon Ahmed.
“Mansha was taken into custody from
the spot, while we have managed to
obtain pre-arrest bail for Haroon Masih
till Feb. 24,” she said. “Haroon and
Mansha were not preaching to the
Muslims as alleged in First Information
Report [FIR] No. 61/21. In fact, they
were reading the Bible and discussing
it amongst themselves when a group of
Muslim boys, including Ahmed,
overheard them and objected to their
Bible study.”
She said both Christians come from
poor families, and Haroon Masih’s
family has had to go into hiding out
fear for their safety.
“Haroon will now join the investigation
and record his statement with the
police,” she said.
The case comes after a Christian nurse
was charged with blasphemy in
Karachi on Jan. 29 under pressure of
an Islamist mob hours after police had
dismissed the accusation against her.
Staff members of the Sobhraj
Maternity Hospital in Karachi on Jan.
28 slapped, beat and locked nurse
Tabeeta Nazir Gill, 42, in a room after
baselessly accusing her of
blaspheming Islam, sources said.
Police had questioned and released
Nazir Gill after concluding that the
accusations against her were false and
based on a co-worker’s personal
vendetta, but a Muslim mob later
besieged the police station when the
complainant called on Muslim leaders
to mobilize them. Nazir Gill and her
family have gone into hiding since the
registration of the FIR.
FALSE ALLEGATIONS
False accusations of blasphemy in
Pakistan are common and often
motivated by personal vendettas or
religious hatred. The highly
inflammatory accusations have the
potential to spark mob lynchings,
vigilante murders and mass protests.
Many of those accused of blasphemy
never reach the courtroom; violence
has killed 62 accused people since
1990, with few prosecutions. Lawyers
defending those charged with
blasphemy, presiding judges, and
individuals speaking against the law
are also targeted.
In Pakistan 24 Christians are in prison
due to blasphemy charges. They are
defendants in 21 blasphemy cases at
various levels of the judicial process.
With no presumption of innocence in
Pakistan, anyone accused of
blasphemy can be jailed, often for
years, while those who make false
allegations go unpunished. In 2018, a
Senate Special Committee on Human
Rights and the Islamabad High Court
had recommended that those making
false blasphemy accusations be given
the same punishments as those for
blasphemy convictions, but the
government dismissed the
recommendation. The recommendation
also stated that anyone registering a
blasphemy case at a police station
must bring two witnesses.
While punishment for blasphemy
ranges from several years in prison to
death in Pakistan, a person making a
false accusation faces potential
punishment of only six months in
prison or a fine of 1,000 rupees (US
$6). Successive governments have
acknowledged that the blasphemy laws
are blatantly misused, but little effort
has been made to stop the abuses.
Rights activists say it’s unlikely that
any government will move to repeal or
amend the blasphemy laws due to
fierce Islamic religious sentiments in
the Muslim-majority country. They say
Pakistani authorities must be urged to
immediately implement effective
procedural and institutional safeguards
at the investigative, prosecutorial and
judicial levels to prevent abuse of
these laws.
The U.S. State Department on Dec. 7
re-designated Pakistan among nine
other “Countries of Particular Concern”
for severe violations of religious
freedom. Previously Pakistan had been
added to the list on Nov. 28, 2018. The
other countries on the list are Burma,
China, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran,
Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and
Turkmenistan. Sudan and Uzbekistan
were removed from the department’s
Special Watch List due to
improvements in their religious rights
records.
Pakistan ranked fifth on Christian
support organization Open Doors 2021
World Watch list of the 50 countries
where it is most difficult to be a
Christian.


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