A Christian family has claimed a highly unusual victory over police officers who were suspected of beating a son to death in the heavily Muslim Pakistan justice system.
The $30,000 payment for the death of Arslan Masih amounts to several years’ income for the family, according to the American Center for Law and Justice.
ACLJ’s branch in Pakistan, the Organization for Legal Aid, has been working with the Masih family for several weeks now to gain justice for the family.
WND reported last year the 17-year-old Christian was beaten to death by police “because he had gotten into a fight with a Muslim classmate who tried to bully him into renouncing his faith.”
The boy’s father, Mushtaq Masih, told Morning Star News: “Arslan was attending his tuition classes at the Ideal Science Academy when Head Constable Imtiaz, Driver Rashid, Constable Arshad and some other unidentified policemen kicked open the door and dragged him out of the classroom. Sardar, alias Billu, a police constable, helped them to identify the boy. With this, they all started beating Arsalan with fists, kicks and rifle butts.”
Shortly after came the report that the attack was religiously motivated.
Now, ACLJ says authorities were ready to “look the other way” in the case, as is common in Pakistan when a victim is a Christian.
But his family “protested by blocking the road to the police station,” and that convinced authorities to filed charges against the officers.
Then came the promising court ruling that denied one of the defendants’ bail.
“Pakistani law prohibits bail where the defendant could be sentenced to death unless the allegation is without supporting evidence. At the hearing, the prosecutor and our attorney on the ground, Khurram Maan, argued that this case does not fall within the exception because there is ‘tangible, convincing, and cogent evidence’ of the defendant’s guilt. … This holding sent a clear sign to the defendants that they might be punished for Arslan’s murder,” the organization said.
It took only a week for the defendants to suggest “a payment of approximately $30,000 as restitution to Arslan’s family in exchange for a pardon. This sum is equivalent to several years of work for the poverty-stricken family. After considering all legal options, Arslan’s family agreed to pardon the defendants and receive the monetary restitution,” the report said.
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“The Pakistani system, which is a mix of British common law and Shariah law, considers acts such as murder, battery, or assault as crimes against the person rather than against the state. For this reason, under restitution (diyat) and an eye-for-an-eye or equal punishment (qisas) laws, the victim or his legal heirs can pardon an otherwise guilty aggressor with or without compensation,” the report said.
“Additionally, because of the high level of corruption in Pakistan, powerful offenders (especially police officers) use their influence to coerce and threaten victims in order to stop otherwise meritorious prosecution claims. This is particularly true in cases where the victim is part of the Christian minority,” the organization said.
So, when the family pardons the defendants, “it means that the defendants accept their guilt.”
“Although, from a Western perspective, this may not seem as an ideal form of justice, it is a significant step in places like Pakistan where a poor Christian family like Arslan’s would not be at a level playing field with the powerful defendants,” the report said.
Such results aren’t all that common, with Christians in the past being sentenced to death for simply drinking out of a water cup used by Muslims. And sometimes when Christians accused of such crimes are released on bail, the local mobs murder them.
But there could be changes.
WND reported last fall that there was a move among senior government officials to halt the abuse of the system.
It comes as part of the backlash over the mob killing of Mashal Khan, a student at Abdul Wali Khan University who had faced “trumped-up charges” of blasphemy, according to Morning Star News.
While police later confirmed Khan had not committed blasphemy, and “the university administration had plotted the mob violence against its own student for publicly criticizing the institution,” the vicious attack prompted shock and horror.
“The brutal lynching, which went viral in social media and received extensive coverage in national media, sent a wave of shock and panic through all sectors of society. It once again brought into the spotlight the controversial laws that since 1980 have claimed the lives of more than 65 persons, including Christians, in extra-judicial killings and mob violence,” Morning Star reported.
Expressing alarm were Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and others, including the nation’s supreme court, which ordered an investigation.
Lawyer Saiful Malook said those guilty of mob violence against blasphemy-case defendants need to be taken to court themselves.
“The state must set an example for all those who think they can take the law into their own hands and kill anyone in the name of the prophet or Islam,” he told Morning Star.
Malook represents Aasiya Noreen, also known as Asia Bibi, who has been on death row for nearly eight years in one of the longest-running blasphemy cases ever in Pakistan.
The American Center for Law and Justice,which has defended Bibi, noted that the chief justice in Pakistan refused a request for an early hearing in her case.
The Christian woman was accused of blasphemy during an argument with Muslim co-workers over a drinking glass.