A 19-year-old Christian man arrested in Punjab for blasphemy after a fight over a cricket match

Sunny Waqas is studying health sciences at a high school in Bahawalnagar. A few days before his arrest he had had an argument with a Muslim neighbour. The mother says that her son has “many Muslim friends”, that “He can never do anything to hurt the feelings of anyone.”

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – A 19-year-old Christian man was arrested in Pakistan on charges of blasphemy, which is punished with the death penalty in the South Asian nation.

The young man, Sunny Waqas, is studying health sciences at a high school in Bahawalnagar, Punjab Province.

The charges include possession of blasphemous material about the Prophet Muhammad. In reality, the accusations came from a Muslim neighbour over a cricket match.

The young man was arrested on 29 June as he was playing at the back of a friend's house. The police charged him with violating 295-C of the Pakistani Penal Code, more commonly known as the blasphemy law, which punishes insults against the Holy Prophet (Muhammad).

The Voice Society association reports that the family began searching for him after his arrest, worried that he had not come home. When the parents went to the police station, they were told that no one by the name of Sunny was in custody and that they should look elsewhere.

Only the next day, were they informed that their neighbour Bilal Ahmad had filed a complaint against their son. According to police, the young man had a bag with flyers and other blasphemous material inside.

The parents are desperate. Sunny’s father, Mushtaq Masih, said that he “is a bright student and is also fond of cricket. He plays cricket in his free time. A few days before he had had a quarrel with some Muslim players, including Bilal Ahmad.”

The mother notes that her son has "many Muslim friends. He can never do anything to hurt the feelings of anyone. He’s an obedient son and is very sensitive towards inter-faith issues."

At present, he is being held in the Bahawalpur district jail, as police gathers evidence for the investigation.

In Pakistan, being accused of insulting Islam can trigger violent reactions by radicals, like in the Asia Bibi’s case.

Activists have been complaining for years that the "black law" on blasphemy is being used against religious minorities to settle personal scores.

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