A petition is sent to the prime minister to intervene in favour of two Christian cousins accused of blasphemy. The plea calls for effective measures to ensure their and their families’ safety and security. An ecumenical group is created to help persecuted Christians.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – Church leaders and civil society groups have issued an urgent plea to Pakistani Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, to act against the rise number of blasphemy cases against Christians.
In a petition sent by the Pakistan Christian Action Forum (PCAF) on 13 March, the signatories note that “The cases under blasphemy laws are based on false accusations to settle personal vendetta, sometimes leading to the killing of innocent people, and mob violence against minority communities”.
The petitioning Church leaders and civil society groups want Abbasi to do something right away for Patras and Sajid Masih, two Christian cousins who were accused last month of posting blasphemous photos on Facebook.
Sajid Masih is currently in the hospital, having jumped from the fourth floor of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) headquarters in Punjab during interrogation.
The petitioners want the prime minister to "intervene and help the Government of Punjab to overcome the abuse of the blasphemy laws in general” as well as do something in relation to incidents involving the cousins.
The petition proposes several measures for the Punjab and federal governments to consider, such as setting up an independent investigation team to look into the circumstances involving the two cousins. “Its report must be made public within two weeks,” the petition requests.
It also calls for the First Information Report by the FIA against Sajid Maish for attempted suicide to be withdrawn and the personnel involved to be held to “account for misusing their power.”
At the same time, effective measures should be take to ensure the safety and security of the accused and their aggrieved families.
The petitioners want the authorities to go further and set up a committee to implement a ruling issued on 19 June 2014 by the Supreme Court that orders the federal and provincial governments to protect the life, liberty and property of religious minorities.
They also call for compliance with the report of a commission of inquiry established in 2009 following riots in August of that year in Gojra that left seven Christians dead.
At the time, the Lahore High Court had also proposed reviewing five provisions of the blasphemy legislation as they relate to Islam so as to find a “consensus among Mujtahideen of all Muslim schools of thought with due consultation with the Council of Islamic Ideology.”
For PCAF coordinator Peter Jacob, the country is paying a heavy price for the abuse of the law, especially Punjab, “where 74 per cent of all blasphemy cases were reported.”
PCAF is an ecumenical support group for persecuted Christians established in early March. Its members include Mgr Humphrey Sarfaraz Peter of the Church of Pakistan; Able Majeed, Presbyterian Church of Pakistan; Cecil Shane Chaudhry, executive director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), and Michelle Chaudhry, president of the Cecil and Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF).