10/28/2019, 15.08
PAKISTAN
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Police in Punjab drops blasphemy charges against Christian sanitation worker

by Shafique Khokhar

Amir Masih found a bag containing a Bible and a Koran. He brought the sacred Islamic text to a shopkeeper he knew to prevent it from ending up as rubbish. Police concluded that the Christian man was not involved in the matter and convinced local imams to look for the real culprit.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Police in a small town in Pakistani Punjab dropped blasphemy charges against a Christian sanitation worker.

After looking into the matter and questioning various parties, police concluded that the Christian man was not involved in the affair and did not commit any outrage against the prophet Muhammad.

His accusers, Islamic leaders and mosque clerics, were convinced to withdraw their blasphemy complaint, which in Pakistan is punishable with the death penalty.

“I appreciate the work of the Punjab police who took the issue seriously and resolved it peacefully after conducting a fair investigation,” said Naveed Walter, president of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP), speaking to AsiaNews.

“If all blasphemy cases were investigated in such a correct way, victims would be absolved and peace would gradually prevail in the country,” he added.

On Saturday, Amir Masih, a Christian sanitation worker resident in Yousafabad, near Faisalabad, found a bag containing pages from the Bible and the Koran.

His job is to collect rubbish from private homes and select recyclable material to sell. As he did his round, he found pages of the sacred texts.

Eager to ensure they were from the Koran, he went to a Muslim-owned shop to have them examined, and urged the owner to take them home. Upon seeing the pages, the shopkeeper started shouting, accusing Amir of being a “unclean garbage collector”.

His shouts attracted other Muslims, who dragged the worker to the mosque. The imam announced over a loudspeaker that they had stopped a blasphemous Christian, urging the imams of other mosques to punish the culprit and burn the houses of Christians.

Most local Christians fled their homes due to fear. Community leaders called on police to intervene. The latter took the sanitation worker into custody, and warned him that he would be punished if he was found guilty.

Amir explained that he could not remember the exact place where he found the bag, as he collects rubbish from hundreds of homes every day.

As he explained what happened, he said he did not expect the shopkeeper to accuse him, that he brought him the sacred texts to prevent them from being thrown away as rubbish.

Eventually, the police filed a complaint against person or persons unknown under section 295 B of the Pakistani Penal Code (blasphemy law), and convinced Islamic clerics to drop the charges. Muslim leaders said that they would look for the real culprit.

The situation returned to normal after moments of fear. For Naveed Walter, “The practice of accusing Christians of blasphemy is not new. It is a habit that affects innocent Christians.”

“If a Muslim was involved, there would not have been all this row. The blasphemy law is used as a sword hanging over minorities. My gratitude goes to the police.”

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