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Pakistan | Christian man sentenced to death for 'blasphemous' post that triggered mob attack last year

An enraged mob torched at least 24 Churches and 80 houses of Christian members in August last year over allegations of Quran desecration. Over 200 Muslims were arrested but none of them have been convicted so far, instead 188 of them were released on bail or lack of evidence.

Pakistan blasphemy: A court in Pakistan has sentenced a Christian man to the death penalty over an alleged "blasphemous post" on social media that triggered a mob attack, which burned dozens of Churches and houses of Christian members in Punjab's Faisalabad district in August last year, underscoring once again how blasphemy laws in the country are used to target minorities. The Christian man has been accused of insulting the sentiments of Muslims.

Notably, an enraged mob torched at least 24 churches and over 80 houses belonging to Christians in the Jaranwala tehsil of Faisalabad district last year over reports that two members of the community had allegedly desecrated the Holy Quran. Following the incident, over 200 Muslims were arrested but none of them have been convicted so far.

Instead, 188 of those convicted have been released by the courts either on lack of evidence against them or on bail. The death sentence against Ahsan Raja Masih, accused of the blasphemous post, was announced by Anti-Terrorism Court Special Judge (Sahiwal) Ziaullah Khan on Saturday. Masih was also handed an imprisonment of 22 years and a fine of Rs 1 million under various sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), and the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA).

'Hurt sentiments of Muslims': Pakistan court


Masih had allegedly shared "blasphemous content" on TikTok and hurt the sentiments of Muslims. This was in stark contrast to the tall claims made by the Pakistan government, who said not a single suspect involved in burning down churches and Christian houses would be spared. The Islamabad police had also formed a 'Minority Protection Unit' comprising 70 policemen to safeguard minority places of worship and communities.

Pakistan has faced renewed criticism over its failure to protect religious minority communities, particularly Christians and Hindus, who have often been targeted by the country's tough blasphemy law, after a couple of incidents in recent months. Under the country's blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or Islamic religious figures can be sentenced to death. Most blasphemy cases in the country are registered primarily to settle grudges between the complainant and accused parties.

All Minorities Alli­a­nce chairman Akmal Bhatti said not a single conviction had been made so far against those (Muslims) accused of torching dozens of churches and houses of Christians. "Hardly 12 Muslim accused are currently facing trial, while the rest have either been discharged from the case or freed on bail," he regretted.

Accusations of blasphemy often provoke people into taking matters into their own hands and emboldens 'mob justice' which has claimed several lives. Minorities, including Christians and Hindus, have been frequently subjected to blasphemy allegations.

Blasphemy in Pakistan


In a shocking incident late last month, a teenage boy stabbed a 55-year-old man for allegedly speaking against the companions of Prophet Muhammad in Pakistan's Punjab province, according to police, marking the second such incident in four days and the third within a month. The incident took place just two days after an enraged mob in the picturesque Pakistani town of Swat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province caught a tourist, dragged him through the town and later hanged him in full public view for allegedly committing desecration of the Quran.

The latest incident of mob violence nearly a month after a mob led by radical Islamists unleashed an attack on Christians in Pakistan's Punjab province over the allegations of desecration of the Quran that left at least 2 members from the minority community injured, one of them seriously. Later, he succumbed to his injuries. The National Assembly, the lower house of Pakistan's parliament, passed a resolution condemning the recent incidents of mob lynching.

The incidents caused Pakistan's Defence Minister to admit that that the country had failed to protect its minorities and that they are facing targeted violence in the name of religion. "Minorities are being murdered daily ….. no religious minority is safe in Pakistan. Even the smaller sects of the Muslims are not safe," he said. The minister further said that many victims were targeted with blasphemy allegations due to personal vendettas.

Notably, domestic and international human rights groups say blasphemy allegations have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and to settle personal scores. Many religious minorities in Pakistan, including Christians and Hindus, have been frequently subjected to blasphemy allegations and have been tried and sentenced under the country's strict blasphemy law. At least 2,120 people are reported to have been accused of committing blasphemy between 1987 and 2022, as per Dawn.

Source: indiatvnews.com, Staff, July 3, 2024

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted."

— Oscar Wilde



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