ASIA/PAKISTAN - False accusations of blasphemy, later withdrawn, against 31 Christians in a Punjab village

Monday, 8 September 2014

Faisalabad (Agenzia Fides) – A typical case of abuse of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law, which would appear now to have been resolved thanks to intervention by the local police – a rare event – happened reportedly in the village of Tehsil Summodri, Faisalabad district, in Punjab, a village where there are about 200 resident Christian families. Fides learned that recently some of the families went to meet Mr Muhammad Iqbal, a Muslim landowner to ask for a little more land for the local Christian cemetery. Mr Iqbal agreed, and generously gave the families a small piece of land for nothing.
On 2 September, with Mr Iqbal present, the Christians were ploughing the land when a group of Muslims suddenly appeared accusing the Christians of desecrating tombs of their Muslim loved ones. A certain Ashiq Hussain went to the police in the nearby town of Muridwala to lodge a First Information Report for blasphemy, in keeping with 295-C of the national Penal Code (blasphemy - offense against the Prophet), against 31 Christians, 3 Muslims and 20 other members of the village. The registered charge, totally false, spoke of “Christian vandals attempting to occupy the land” and “more than 400 Muslim tombs desecrated”.
Police investigation found that the area was indeed once a Muslim cemetery but many years ago all the Muslim tombs were moved to another site. The police annulled the charge of Blasphemy art. 295-C, replacing it with art. 297of the Penal Code (violation of a sacred place or cemetery). According to Fides, the situation in the village is returning to normal as the Christian and Muslim village chiefs work to clear up the misunderstanding and calm feelings of animosity. (KA-PA) (Agenzia Fides 8/9/2014)