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    » 10/13/2008, 00.00

    PAKISTAN

    A Christian man and his daughter arrested, almost lynched for blasphemy

    Qaiser Felix

    Rumours spread in a village near Faisalabad that a Christian girl ripped some pages from the Qur’an. But more than one version of the facts is making the rounds of the village. Anti-Christian intolerance is growing in the country and a Pakistani lawmaker says the “accusations are a fabrication” to persecute Christians.
    Chak Jhumra (AsiaNews) – A Christian man, Gulsher Masih, and his daughter Sandal have been charged with blasphemy under Article 295 B of the Pakistan Penal Code for allegedly tearing some pages from the Qur’an last Thursday in the village of Tehsil Chak Jhumra, in Faisalabad district. Without police intervention they could have been lynched by an angry mob.

    Some Muslims who walked by the Gulsher home said they saw Sandal Gulsher and her father Masih tear some pages from the Qur’an and throw them into the street. The story eventually made to the village mosques so that by Thursday evening an enraged mob, including people from neighbouring villages, marched through the village calling for the death of the blasphemers.

    Deputy Inspector Faryad told AsiaNews that once the mob was at the Gulsher home they began stoning the building, striking doors and windows with sticks (see photo). They also stoned a nearby Protestant church.

    Police took the entire Gulsher family into custody for their “own protection,” he added. “Vans full of Muslims were driving to the village but were stopped by police.”  

    A local Christian resident, Ayub Khawar, told AsiaNews that at one point the mob seemed poised to attack other Christian homes. Frightened beyond belief he ran home where he turned off the lights; in total darkness he told his family to keep absolute quiet.

    Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian lawmaker and chairman of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), told AsiaNews that the charge is a total fabrication. For him “there is no direct evidence and the police has not investigated the case.”

    Blasphemy charges are made against Christians just to strike at them. Only a few days ego the Gulshers had a public row with some Muslims.

    The APMA was able to get the family members not directly involved in the case out of prison and into a safe house where they are hiding.

    Bhatti said that his organisation “will take care of legal and financial matters for the family. Our lawyers will soon submit a bail application.”

    AsiaNews went to the village to investigate the affair a day after the incident and spoke to various Muslims about it, finding that people have different versions of the alleged blasphemy.

    One Ghulam Ghaus said that three Christian kids from 10 to 12 years of age, including a son of the Gulshers, stole a Qur’an from a local mosque. They tore off some pages to play with and then left them on the ground where they were found. Eventually someone accused Sandal and the rumour spread.

    Master Kamal, a teacher at a Christian elementary school, said that Sandal found the pages among rubbish in the street. After picking them up she gave them to a Muslim woman who then accused her of blasphemy.

    Also on Thursday a similar accusation was made in Faisalabad against a Muslim named Rehmat Ali.

    A passer-by said he saw Rehmat, who is mentally ill, throw pages of the Qur’an into a drain. He called out to other passers-by and together they began beating him until the arrival of the police which then arrested him.

    The mob did not stop though and kept protesting in the streets, calling for the miscreant’s death, going so far as to storm the Batala Colony Station where Rehmat was detained. Only after using sticks and tear gas was the police able to beat back the assault.

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    See also

    27/04/2007 PAKISTAN
    Mob and police torture Catholic man accused of blasphemy
    Without any evidence angry Muslims torture Sattar Masih, 28, for allegedly blaspheming against Muhammad. Police moves in but only to arrest him. He was supposed to get married the following day.

    24/05/2006 PAKISTAN
    Minorities against the blasphemous and satanic Da Vinci Code
    The Pakistani government should treat the movie the way it treated the Muhammad cartoons: totally ban it for it insults Christians' belief in the divinity of Christ, the truthfulness of sacred scriptures, and the core values of Christianity.

    26/01/2007 PAKISTAN
    Another Christian imprisoned for “blasphemy”
    Following an altercation, a man who owed money to a Christian woman accuses her of insulting the prophet Muhammad, an offence that also carries the death penalty. She was taken into custody by the police. Minority rights group blames Islamic extremists for using the law to strike at religious minorities or anyone who dare oppose them.

    20/05/2008 PAKISTAN
    New “blasphemy” case, Catholic lawmaker against government
    Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic member of Pakistan’s National Assembly and chairman of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, calls on the government to change the infamous blasphemy law and free Christians jailed on blasphemy charges without evidence. The case of Dr Sardar is particularly serious; he could be hanged because someone wanted to settle a personal score.

    10/08/2005 PAKISTAN
    Christian charged with blasphemy released
    Despite his newly found freedom, Yousaf Masih's life is still at risk. He is in hiding to avoid Islamists' threats. Islamic political parties still call for his death, whilst minority rights activists announce a national campaign against the Blasphemy Law.



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