Christians arrested for blasphemy over pages of the Qur’an dropped in a Lahore street
Despite the outrage over events in Jaranwala, Pakistan’s blasphemy legislation continues to be abused. A Christian couple is arrested on suspicion that their children might have desecrated the Qur’an. Amidst high tensions, Shaukat and Kiran Masih are jailed. Meanwhile, in Tandlianwala, another city in Faisalabad district, Christians have been forced to flee their homes at night under threat from Islamist extremists.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – Pakistan’s blasphemy legislation continues to be abused despite the worldwide resonance a few weeks ago of a number of attacks against churches and Christian homes in Jaranwala (Punjab).
One of the more regrettable cases to be reported recently involves a Christian couple who were arrested after some torn pages of the Qur’an were found on their rooftop.
Last Friday, a Muslim man, Muhammad Tamoor, said that he saw several pages of the Islamic holy book fall from the roof of a house in the Chaudhry Colony, Lahore.
He knocked at the house and insisted on entering the premises, home of Shaukat and Kiran Masih and their three children, daughters Sundas and Ruby and son Sabir.
When he reached the roof, Tamoor found a pink bag behind a water tank with other pages of the Qur’an, which led him to call the police. In his statement to the authorities, he demanded that a case be filed under Article 295-B of the Penal Code, the so-called blasphemy law.
The Christian couple were immediately arrested for an act of desecration that might have been done by their children.
The law entails severe penalties, including life imprisonment, for any intentional act that profanes, damages, desecrates or uses a copy of the Holy Qur’an or parts thereof in a derogatory manner or for any illegal purpose.
Following the incident, tensions grew in the neighbourhood, with Islamists engaging in intimidatory behaviour, compounding existing concerns.
Another disturbing incident was reported last Wednesday in Tandlianwala, a city in Faisalabad district (Punjab). Jaranwala, scene of attacks on homes and churches took place last month, is located in the same district.
Here, too, threats of imminent action by Islamist extremists following an alleged blasphemy case sparked an exodus of Christian residents who had to abandon their homes to seek protection.
In another case, as many as five complaints of blasphemy have been filed against Christians in Sargodha (Punjab) in the past three months, in a campaign led by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, an extremist Islamist political party, demanding the arrest of the accused people.
“The rampant misuse of blasphemy laws, coupled with a surge in violence against Christians, demands immediate action and intervention to secure the rights, safety, and security of all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs,” said Joseph Jansen, president of Voice for Justice, a human rights group.
The situation “has highlighted the alarming escalation of religious intolerance, discrimination, and violence against religious minorities over baseless blasphemy accusations.”