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Wanted Pakistani ‘blasphemer’ arrested

By Sheraz Khurram Khan
11/29/08 TOBA TEK SINGH, PAKISTAN (ANS) — Police on November 17, 2008 arrested a Pakistani Christian man, who fled to safety after he was named in the police First Information Report (FIR) in April last year as a alleged blasphemer.

Trouble began for Rashid, 16 in April last when Muslims across Pakistan were celebrating birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad. ANS has learnt that trading of harsh words between Rashid’s younger brother and a Muslim resident of Bakshi Park in Toba Tek Singh ended up at a scuffle between the two men.

The Muslim man was wearing a shirt with a sticker bearing caption in respect of Prophet Muhammad. The sticker fell down on the ground during the scuffle, giving the Muslim man a pretext to implicate Rashid and his family members in a blasphemy case.

The scene of scuffle was close to the site where hundreds of Muslims were observing Eid Milad-ul-Nabi (the birth anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad).

Angry local Muslims alleged that five local Christians desecrated Prophet Muhammad’s name by hurling the sticker on the ground. They also accused the Christians of passing derogatory remarks against Prophet Muhammad. ANS has learnt that several Christians suffered injuries after they were manhandled by enraged Muslims.

Salamat father of Rashid was arrested on the same day while other Christians fled to avoid arrests. Police arrested three other Christians later. Police on Nov. 17, 2008 arrested Rashid on a tip-off when he went to see his family in Toba Tek Singh.

Sohail Johnson of the Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan visited Toba Tek Singh jail on November 18.

Lamenting over arrest of Rashid, Johnson said his ministry team had developed emotional attachment with the blasphemy-accused. The news left them sad, he said.

“The SLMP is very much concerned about his life, as it has been experienced in the past that some blasphemy-accused have been killed even in police custody”, said Sohail Johnson.

The ministry has urged Christians across the world to pray for Rashid’s protection.

“Please also keep his family in your prayers as it is a great shock to his family too. Please pray for early release of Rashid and others detained in this case”, said the prayer request. Please pray for SLMP team when they go for court hearings or to meet Muslim clergymen for reconciliation,” it said.