License to kill: Pakistan’s blasphemy laws

By Bob Unruh

Pakistani Christians' burned homes
Pakistani Christians’ burned homes

The chief of a Christian organization in Pakistan is warning that the nation’s blasphemy laws, essentially, are a license to kill Christians.

The comments came from the president of the Pakistan Christian Congress, Nazir Bhatti, in a report from the Gatestone Institute’s Mohshin Habib, who was looking at the fallout from the recently torture deaths of two Christians accused – but never convicted – of burning a page from the Quran.

That case, the deaths of Shama Bibi, 24, and her husband, Shahzad Masih, has generated a firestorm of backlash against Pakistan’s tolerance for violence against those even suspected of “blasphemy,” which protects Islam but not other faiths.

A spokesman for the family of the two victims – their unborn child also was killed – said they were accused of blasphemy, and hid. But mobs of Muslims found them, tore apart the room where they had taken refuge, and more.

“The mob beat them and broke their legs so they would not be able to flee,” the Gatestone report said. “They were then held over an open kiln until their clothes caught fire. ‘They picked them up by the arms and legs and held them over the brick kiln until their clothes caught fire. And then they threw them inside the furnace,’ according to Javed Maseeh, a spokesman for the family,” the report said.

The report said someone had accused them of burning a page of the Quran.

“The accuser went to the neighboring villages in the Kasur district and incited the Muslims against her and her husband,” the report said. Ultimately “1,000-2,000 people from five nearby villages gathered…”

“There are blasphemy cases registered in more than a dozen police stations,” Bhatti said in the Gatestone report. “While the courts have ordered the arrest of one Muslim media station boss and another Muslim artist from a TV channel, they are enjoying a police escort and attending meetings, and no one dares to arrest them.

“But one false allegation of blasphemy, and the police put Christians behind bars, and courts award them death sentences. That practice indicates that blasphemy laws are only legislated to target religious minorities in Pakistan.”

“He added that in Pakistan, blasphemy laws are a license to kill Christians at the hands of Muslims,” reported Gatestone, a non-partisan, nonprofit policy council dedicated to educating the public about what the “mainstream media fails to report,” such as democracy, human rights, a capable military and energy independence.

“People of a country learn their way of life in the light of the country’s laws,” Gatestone reported. “Many people around the [world] consider that the constant slaughtering of Christians in Pakistan is morally supported by the country’s destructive blasphemy law, used and often abused whether anyone has blasphemed or not.”

While Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called for justice for the “murderers,” Father James Channan of the Peace Center of the Dominican Order in Pakistan said in the Gatestone report, “Our present government has the worst record of not punishing the culprits of these cases. All of them are set free after a short time.”

Many of those accused never face a court or trial, being “killed extrajudicially” – by mobs, officials said.

“Sadly, the leadership and media of the West do not even notice that three million Christians in Pakistan live in fear for their lives. While some international organizations are struggling to make blasphemy laws obsolete, the world’s most powerful leaders have been mostly silent about these crimes,” Gatestone reported.

In this particularly horrific case, the Evangelical Alliance reported the nation’s Supreme Court is to investigate, with Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk asking local officials for a report.

“This move by the Supreme Court is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to protect Christians in Pakistan who face persecution,” said Manoj Raithatha, head of the South Asian Forum of the group.

He noted a petition that has been created to collect signatures of people who want Western financial subsidies to Pakistan terminated until “the nation improves its extremely poor human rights record.”

The Christian Institute in the United Kingdom also cited the goal of the petition by the British Pakistani Christian Association is to “force our government to do something tangible to ensure that there can be no ‘business as usual’ in Pakistan in relation to the murder of Christians under theh pretense of its biased blasphemy law.”


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