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Press Release — July 3, 2002

Pakistani Victims of Corruption

(July 3, 2002) To be a Christian in Pakistan means watching every word, every action, and even every glance. Among the poorest members of Pakistani society, Christians are also one of the most vulnerable to corruption. Any word regarding the prophet of Islam can land a Christian in jail. Simply being a better businessman than a Muslim can lead to false charges. Unfortunately, what often begins as a personal grudge escalates when Islamic fundamentalists paint it as a religious issue, pitting “true” Muslims against the infidels. Whipping up fervor against the Christians, the extremists hold much sway in police stations and courts across Pakistan.

On March 17, 2000 police in Ghulam Muhammadabad arrested Aslam Ashiq Masih (alias Kungri Masih) on the order of angry extremists who claimed he had blasphemed Islam. Born into a Christian family, Aslam had decided to convert to Islam because of economic enticements and pressure from an Islamic extremist group. However, he later realized he had made a mistake and reverted to his former faith. Then on March 17, 2000, Mr. Rana Nisar Ahmed of the Suni Tehreek Islamic group approached Aslam and questioned him about his reversion to Christianity. Obviously angry that Aslam had abandoned Islam, Ahmed accused the Christian of uttering blasphemous remarks about the prophet. A fight ensued in which Aslam and several others were beaten. A mob of about 200 armed Muslims then stormed the village. Police were able to head off the mob and most of the violence. However, Aslam was taken into custody and charged under blasphemy law 295/c.

Unfortunately, the case of Aslam Masih did not end there. On June 30, 2002 the session court of Faisalabad found him guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to death as well as fining him 50,000 rupees. If this verdict is not overturned, Aslam Masih will die by hanging.

And blasphemy cases are not even the most heinous abuse of power by Muslims against Christians. During late June a Pakistani teenager was brutally beaten to death by police officers after being falsely accused of a crime. Fifteen-year-old Yaqoob Masih, a resident of Christian Kachi Abadi, worked as a sweeper at the customs department. Last month he witnessed a corrupt “deal” between a van driver and customs officials. The van driver had bribed the officials in order to avoid paying customs on his imported vehicle. When asked to remain quiet about the bribe, Yaqoob responded that, if questioned, he would tell the truth. Outraged, the van driver then had Yaqoob arrested on trumped up charges in order to cover-up the corruption. Police officers mercilessly beat Yaqoob, breaking his ribs and ripping out his fingernails. Yaqoob fainted and was taken to the hospital where he died on June 27, 2002.

Once again International Christian Concern asks Christians and other concerned parties to raise their voices about the injustice being carried out against Christians in Pakistan. You can e-mail your comments and concerns to President Musharraf at [email protected].