ASIA/PAKISTAN - New cases of "blasphemy" against Christians and Hindus

Tuesday, 2 August 2016 blasphemy   religious minorities   religious freedom   islam   violence  


Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - New cases of "blasphemy" against religious minorities in Pakistan: as Agenzia Fides learns, at least four Christians were charged for alleged blasphemy against Islam in Punjab province last month.
In the other province of Sindh in southern Pakistan, a man was killed and another seriously injured as a result of registered unrest between Hindus and Muslims in Mirpur Mathelo in the district of Sindh. Even this incident was triggered by a false accusation of blasphemy against a Hindus, who police say was mentally disabled.
Among the cases registered against Christians there is that of James Nadeem, 35, resident in Gujrat, who wrote the offensive remarks about the Prophet and sent them to a friend via the "WhatsApp" messaging service. When the news spread of the alleged insult to Islam, hundreds of Muslims crowded outside the Christian area with the intent of setting fire to the entire area and only a prompt intervention of the police prevented the massacre, while Christians have left their homes as a precaution.
An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Gujranwala, issued in recent weeks a verdict of death sentence regarding two Christians (Anjum Naz Sindhu, a school headmaster, and Javed Naz) and a Muslim (Jaffar Ali) on charges of blasphemy.
In another case, the Christian Usman Masih was accused of blasphemy for allegedly having sent an offensive message on the social network Facebook.
In Sindh, after the news of blasphemy had spread, a crowd of Muslims gathered asking Hindus to hand over the accused. Even after the tensions between Hindus and Muslims calmed down, unrest broke out that caused damage to shops and clashes with the police, who arrested 80 people. After the riots, two young Hindus were attacked: unknown assailants shot to death Sateesh Kumar and injured his friend, who remains in critical condition.
Pakistan - where about 200 million Muslims, about 4 million Christians and as many Hindus live - has one of the toughest laws, among the Muslim-majority countries, against blasphemy, which includes a wide range of actions or comments that could be interpreted as "defamation of Islam." The law introduced in 1986 by the dictator Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq without any parliamentary passage, also provides for life imprisonment or death penalty, but in many cases it is abused and trotted out to settle personal vendettas.
According to data from the "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Bishops of Pakistan, 200 Christians, 633 Muslims, 494 Ahmadis, and 21 Hindus (over 1,300 cases) were charged with blasphemy from 1987 to 2013. In 2014 the complaints registered were 1400, while in the last 30 years 70 accused of blasphemy have been extrajudicially executed. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 02/08/2016)