11/05/2015, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Lahore, after a year no justice for Christian couple burnt alive

by Shafique Khokhar
Falsely accused of blasphemy Shama and Shahzad Masih, parents of four children, were lynched and burnt alive on 4 November 2014. For the president of the foundation that takes care of their children, “they did not only burn two precious lives, they burnt humanity”. For a Catholic writer, “The government has shown criminal negligence in dealing with the problem of the abuse of the blasphemy law”.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – A year ago (4 November 2014), Shama, 24, and Shahzad Masih, 26, a Christian couple, were brutalised by a Muslim mob - still breathing, they were thrown in the burning furnace of the brick kiln where they worked.

“Today we hold Shama and Shahzad deep in our hearts: two innocent lives lost to extreme bigotry in our society. The horror of that ill-fated day will remain in our hearts and minds for years to come,” said Michelle Chaudhry, president of the Cecil and Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF).

In the furnace, “they did not only burn two precious lives, they burnt humanity, they burnt the principles of Islam, and they burnt Jinnah’s* Pakistan and no amount of monetary reparations can atone for such an extreme act of violence.”

The murderous incident took in Kasur District, about 60 kilometres from Lahore, in Pakistan’s Punjab Province. Shama and Shahzad Masih, parents of four children, were seized, beaten and killed by a mob of 350-400 people, egged on by a local religious leader over alleged blasphemy.

One of the workers had accused Shama of burning pages of the Qur‘an. So far, the allegation was never proven, and no one has been convicted in connection with the crime.

The Cecil and Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF), which is named after Pakistani Airforce hero and Catholic activist Cecil Chaudhry and his wife, decided to take charge of the education of Shama’s and Shahzad’s children (pictured), whose age ranges from two to nine. In the meantime, the Catholic community is still waiting for justice for Shama and Shahzad.

“We at the Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF) continue our struggle for a just and equitable Pakistan,” President Michelle Chaudhry said. “We continue to demand the implementation of the 19th June 2014 Supreme Court judgment issued by former Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani who, in a 32-page judgment, issued a set of guidelines for the government, promoting religious and social tolerance and the protection of religious minorities in Pakistan.”

Instead, for Attaurehman Saman, a member of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), "The government has shown criminal negligence in dealing with the problem of the abuse of the blasphemy law,” and has failed to adopt “appropriate legislation” in the matter.

“By contrast, the police has shown a responsible attitude and brought the situation under control,” he added. “Their vigilance during the incidents in Dhup Sari in Lahore and Kangapur Kasu saved the (Christian) community from mass destruction."

* Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), founder of modern Pakistan.

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