Young, mentally ill Christian man arrested for blasphemy in Punjab
Lahore (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy law strikes the country’s Christian community again. This time, police in Chichawatni, Sahiwal District, Punjab, charged and arrested a mentally ill Christian man “for offending the religious sentiments” of Muslims. They also saved him from a mob bent on carrying out summary justice. Babar Masih, 25, allegedly used abusive language in regards to the Prophet Muhammad. Three of his relatives have already fled their home after receiving serious threats. The Masihs where the only Christians living in the area and are now in hiding for fear of reprisals at the hands of Muslim extremists.
Police opened an investigation against the mentally ill Babar Masih on the basis of the ‘black law’. On 2 May, they arrested him for making blasphemous remarks about the Prophet Muhammad. Local Christian sources said that the young man’s own family alerted police who arrested him in secret.
A mob of angry Muslims had gathered near the Masih family home. The other members of the family feared he might be summarily executed. Indeed, Muslim extremists had demanded the mentally ill man be handed over to them so that justice could be done. Thanks to the police, Babar was spirited away. In the meantime, his family found shelter in a secret hideout.
Babar’s brother Amjad said that some local Muslim religious leaders had pressured people to bear false witness against him. His mental status is widely known, and in the past, he has had fits of unmotivated anger during which he has used offensive language. He is also known for not eating or dressing properly. He was, in other words, an “easy target” for preposterous accusations based on the infamous blasphemy law.
Christian leaders in the province have tried to mediate with the local imam trying to find a way to have the charges withdrawn. However, extremists have no intention to do that.
Despite complaints from the international community about abuses, the ‘black law’ appears to be on the verge of taking another victim from the Christian minority.
Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, a Muslim, and Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, were assassinated in cold blood earlier this year because they sought changes if not the repeal of the law.