ASIA/PAKISTAN - Legal battle for the custody of the children of the Christian couple burned alive

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - Five different applications have been lodged at the Court of Lahore demanding custody of the three children of Shama and Shahzad Masih, the Christian couple accused of blasphemy and burned alive by a mob of Muslims in Kot Radha Kishan, in Punjab, on November 4, 2014.
As Fides learns, the three orphaned children are: Salman 6 years old; Sania, 4 years old; Poonam 18 months old. According to family members, at the time of the death, Shama was also pregnant.
The three children are currently living with their maternal grandfather. The Prime Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, visited the children the day after the death of their parents, announcing compensation of five million rupees and the gift of 10 acres of land. He promised, moreover, education and free health care to the three. It’s up to the Court now to destine the amount allocated by the government, by choosing a guardian to administer the property and to take care of the three until they reach legal age.
This has sparked a legal battle for custody. The plaintiffs are Mukhtar Masih, the children’s maternal grandfather; maternal uncle Yasin Masih; paternal uncle Iqbal Masih. Also two organizations that could take care of children have filed for custody: one is "Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD)", led Christian Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill; the second is "Child Protection and Welfare Bureau", an NGO that deals with orphaned children. The hearing is scheduled for February 6.
Christian lawyer Gill, in a note sent to Fides, recalls that "if the three were assigned to LEAD the children would be brought up in a Christian environment, as is their right". (PA) (Agenzia Fides 29/01/2015)