Pakistan Group Urges Protection For Threatened Nurses
6/13/07 Pakistan (BosNewsLife) — Human rights groups in Pakistan on Wednesday, June 13, still awaited government steps to protect Christians suffering under “draconian” blasphemy legislation, including a man sentenced to death and nurses threatened by militant students.
“The religious extremists are furthering their agenda by abusing the blasphemy laws while the government constantly refuses to discuss the issue on any proper forum,” said the National Justice and Peace Commission of the Roman Catholic church in a published statement.
Since last week advocacy group All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) sought protection for students and two teachers of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Hospital in Islamabad .
APMA Chairman Shahbaz Bhatti told BosNewsLife that Muslim students threatened “to kidnap and kill” student nurses Nabeela Zafar, Adena Dalton, Semab Hadayat and Kanwal Bekhtawar for allegedly crossing out Quranic verses on a notice board with a pen. The Christian school principal Stella Nazir and instructor Fazeela Payara were suspended over the affair.
All have denied any involvement in the incident. On June 1, however, nurses were forced to seek refuge as an angry crowd of Muslim students demanded their punishment, Bhatti said. The latest reported incidents came after a Pakistani court sentenced a Christian man, Younis Masih, to death on charges of blasphemy against Islam and its Prophet Muhammad.
Masih was also fined $1,667 in local currency by the Session Court in the town of Lahore during “the first ever video trial in a blasphemy case”, said Bhatti, whose organization helps him to appeal the sentence.
Masih was detained in September, 2005, on what APMA regards as trumped up charges of blasphemy. All Masih did, AMPA said, was asking a Muslim neighbor to turn down Islamic music as people were in his house mourning the death of a one-year-old nephew.
Human rights groups say blasphemy laws in Pakistan have been “misused” by militants to settle disputes and have urged the government to change them. A Pakistani official said earlier this year that Islamabad wants to reform its controversial blasphemy legislation.
However Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed cautioned that he only expected changes after a general election due late this year or early 2008.
Christians comprise less than three percent of Pakistan ‘s mainly Muslim population of nearly 165 million, according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). (With BosNewsLife reporting).