Lahore (AsiaNews) – Over one hundred people, both Muslim and Christian, have demonstrated their support of Walter Fazal Khan, an 84 year-old Christian arrested on blasphemy charges, appealing to Lahore’s general superintendent for his immediate release. Witnesses report that Khan is the victim of a plot by his driver to rob him of his lands.
Indeed it was his driver who told police that he had witnessed his employer burning pages of the Koran. Despite the absence of any proof, the police arrested the Christian according to the dictates of article 295-b of Pakistan’s penal code, the infamous blasphemy law, which punishes those who defame Muhammad or desecrate Islam’s scared scriptures with prison or even death.
The man’s family along with diverse civil groups who know him, from the very beginning of the case described it as a “conspiracy” orchestrated by a group of Muslim businessmen who aim to expropriate Khan’s lands. These men, in fact, had previously bought about one hundred square metres of land from the “blasphemer” for 2.5 million rupee [circa 30 thousand euro]. Following this the Christian had put the remaining land up for sale at a price of 12.4 million rupee. The purchasers interested in acquiring the rest of the land offered 8 million which Khan refused.
The demonstrators went on record in support of Khan on May 19th last. Supporters presented statements to the local police in which Muslims present among them admitted to having being “duped” into asking for Khans arrest by “instigators” who had presented him as a “blasphemer”.
In their statement they claim that it was only later on, when the situation had calmed down, that they realised the whole case had been fabricated by Khan’s driver Raja Riaz, in an attempt to rob his employers land. Among those petitioning in favour of Khan’s release was the Muslim President of the Samanabad Commercial Union, two representatives of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and Joseph Francis, executive director of Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement.
Pervez Kandhari, the Superintendent of Police assured the people that the police would investigate
the case carefully and review the situation. In the meantime the police seem reluctant to come to the aid of Christians in Charsadda, near Islamabad, who continue to receive death threats from Islamic Fundamentalists, demanding their conversion to Islam or their exile from Pakistan.
During a press conference in the capital, the bishop of Islamabad and the president of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (Apma) repeated that “not one Christian will abandon Christ. Rather they would die for Him”.
Shahbaz Bhatti, Apma president, told AsiaNews: “Pakistan’s Christian minorities have already been submitted to attacks, threats and false accusations. We are paying the consequences each and every day and have been doing so for quite a long time. But we will not give in to those who want to see us dead or exiled”.
Msgr. Lobo confirms this, adding: “Our community is suffering but not defeated. Now religion can be spread by the sword. Right now the Christians of Charsadda need our help, our support and above all our prayers”.