11/02/2013, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Punjab, Christians hunted for blasphemy: fireworks wrapped in Koran pages

by Jibran Khan
The two Christians and their families have fled for fear of being killed. The two fireworks vendors say they are innocent: they bought them from a factory owned by Muslims.

Islamabad ( AsiaNews) - Two Pakistani Christians and their families are fleeing for their lives after being accused of blasphemy against the Koran. The two proclaim their innocence and fear for their lives.

Arif Masih and Tariq Masih are owners of a store where they sell fireworks in Thatta Faqirullah (Wazirabad , Punjab ) . On October 27 they sold Muhammad Zahid a set of fireworks for his wedding party. Since some of them failed to go off, some of the wedding guests opened them to see why they did not work and found that the powders were wrapped in pages containing verses of the Koran. The discovery shocked the newlyweds and their guests who immediately destroyed the store of both Christians and denounced the two to the police.

Tariq Masih tells AsiaNews : "We do not manufacture fireworks, we buy them from a factory near Gujranwala and we do not know what materials they use. Moreover, these factories are owned by Muslims and no Christian works inside there."

Tariq adds : "We have not even touched the pages of the Koran. The idea of using these pages for fireworks is beyond all imagination because we are well aware of the consequences."

The people of Thatta Faqirullah did not believe the two Christians and called on the police to arrest them and an exemplary punishment for those who insult Islam. Several have threatened that if the police do not act, they will hunt and kill them to the two blasphemers themselves.

Arif Masih and Tariq Masih, along with their families, fled from the area, fearing for their lives.

Fr. George James, of the Diocese of Sialkot, comments: "This is a sad incident that the marginalized  are being victimized, a poor vendor is being targeted for something he has not done, the violent and aggressive mobs are hunting them down to kill them. For how long will the minorities have to face the abuse of the law? The concerned authorities should act responsibly and ensure that the law and order situation remains in control and no innocent has to suffer".

In Pakistan, the blasphemy law is often used against Christian minorities , Sikhs, Ahmadis, but also against Muslims in order to pursue personal vendettas . Last month a Christian was beheaded in Karachi, accused of blasphemy, for reasons related to professional rivalry .

 

 

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