Date: October 23, 2016
LONDON, UK. (ANS-October, 23, 2016) -- Community tension is on the upswing against Christians in Pakistan as Muslims call for the blood of two blasphemy law victims.
According to a news release from the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), over the last few weeks the legal sagas of Asia Bibi, 46, and Nabeel Masih, 16, have been putting Pakistan’s judicial system through its most difficult test yet.
BPCA commented, “Sadly for these victims and to the consternation of millions of people around the globe who have been watching intently hoping for Pakistan to bring justice to these innocent victims,” the courts have failed.
Last week the trial of Bibi, a mother of five imprisoned for seven years, was postponed indefinitely.
BPCA said that apparently a judge who should have been on a panel of three presiding over her trial, failed to recognize until the day of trial that Bibi’s case was closely connected with the murder of Salmaan Taseer.
Justice Iqbal Hameed abstained himself from sitting on the panel claiming a conflict of interest in what, BPCA commented, was “a dubious act that has invoked widespread condemnation from humanitarians who believe his act to be one of cowardice.”
Protests have been held across the country, in which extremist groups are inciting the already conservative Muslim communities in Pakistan to call for the blood of Asia Bibi.
Sunni Muslim groups have coordinated mass demonstrations across Pakistan, chanting slogans and displaying signs calling for Bibi to be hanged.
Hundreds of members and supporters of Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah gathered last week in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore to declare their hatred for her.
“It will be a war if accursed Asia escapes. We are united to guard the honor of Rasool Allah. We are his servants,” Mukhtar, one of many protesters in Lahore supporting Bibi’s hanging, told AsiaNews.
“Was Pakistan formed to hang the lovers and spare blasphemers? Why is Asia Bibi not hanged even after the death sentence by Lahore High Court and Supreme Court,” he asked, warning “the government will pay if it acts on foreign agenda and betrays us.”
BPCA said that a high ranking Punjab judge has offered to become part of the appeals panel, and intimated he would uphold the death penalty issued by the High Court of Lahore.
“I have long studied the case,” the Assistant Attorney General Chaudhry Ahmad Zubair Farooq said, “ ... and overwhelming evidence and testimonies have emerged against the defendant.”
This week Masih faced the jeers of a mob of in excess of 80 Muslims seeking his death, whilst in Lahore High Court awaiting his sentence for charges of blasphemy.
Masih’s “crime” was to post a Facebook image that is said to be derogatory to Muslims on the walls of his friends’ Facebook.
On Friday, a judge announced the young teenager could face the death sentence.
Ostensibly the alleged blasphemy crime with which Masih is charged breaches section 295 and 295A of Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which should hold a maximum sentence of 10 years.
However, BPCA said, the courts in Pakistan “are known for their manipulation of laws which are used as a tool to discriminate against minorities.”
The presiding judge in Masih’s case felt that the image (which allegedly no one but the accusers and the police ever saw on his Facebook page), constituted a crime against Muhammed. As such, Masih now faces a death sentence simply for inappropriate use of social media.
After the hearing, Masih, his family and his legal defense team had to be escorted out of the court surrounded by armed guards.
However, BPCA suggested, “The intense atmosphere in the courts suggests security measures will need to be beefed up at any future trial dates. Even as the trial ensued, the mob was growing in size as those in attendance were calling friends to come and join them.”
Masih’s family are in hiding, and may never be safe again in a country where Christians hold pariah status. Communities of Christians nationwide have been warned that if Masih and Bibi are not hanged for their crimes, then Muslims will attack Christian communities to kill as many as they can.
According to BPCA, additional security teams are being posted at churches. Despite the threats church attendances seem to have grown, as Christians seek hope for their situation through God.
Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association said in the news release, “I am totally dismayed by the (lack of) humanity exhibited by the Muslim community in Pakistan towards these two innocent and defenseless Christians.”
He added, “The hatred incomprehensible to those in the West is now commonplace in Pakistan. The survival of Christianity in Pakistanis is facing an unprecedented threat. We call on Western nations to use their power of leverage through foreign aid budgets to defend the defenseless.”
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Photo captions: 1) Asia Bibi. 2) Muslims who want Asia Bibi to hang. 3) Jeremy and Elma Reynalds.
About the writer: Jeremy Reynalds, who was born in Bournemouth, UK, is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, www.joyjunction.org. He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. One of his more recent books is “From Destitute to Ph.D.” Additional details on the book are available at www.myhomelessjourney.com. His latest book is "Two Hearts One Vision." It is available at www.twoheartsonevisionthebook.