By ICC’s Pakistan Correspondent
09/09/2015 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – On September 1, another Christian from Pakistan’s Punjab province was accused of making derogatory remarks against Islam and arrested under the country’s controversial blasphemy laws. In Pakistan, the crime of making derogatory remarks against Islam is punishable by death. Often, these laws are abused to settle personal scores, for financial gain, or to incite religious hatred.
Pervaiz Masih, age 35, was accused of making derogatory remarks against Islam in Garay-wala village in the Kasur District by a Muslim supervisor after a dispute at a job site. Gulawaiz, Masih’s brother, told International Christian Concern (ICC), “In the last week of August, Masih had a dispute with his [boss], Muhammad Ijaz, over his [salary] for labor-work of uploading sand into a trolley from the river.”
“My brother did not commit blasphemy,” Gulawaiz said. “Ijaz wanted to [steal] 1,500 Rupees from three laborers, including Masih, however he resisted against the injustice and demanded that he should be paid in full.”
“Masih exchanged of words with Muhammad Ijaz which made Ijaz aggressive,” Gulawaiz continued. “Therefore, almost two weeks after this dispute, he alleged Masih for committing blasphemy, which is baseless.”
Following the accusations against Masih being lodged at the local police station, police raided Masih’s family home in search of him. When it was discovered that Masih was not home, police arrested and beat members of Masih’s family. Javaid Masih, another brother of Masih’s, told ICC, “Police beat Masih’s wife, mother in-law, brother-in law, and few other family members. They were also arrested and in the lock-up as well.”
Shamaun, Masih’s brother in-law, confirmed that police beat him and his family members when searching for Masih. During the interview with ICC, Shamaun could not talk properly due to injuries to his tongue.
Using information violently gathered from the family, police were able to locate Masih in a nearby village and arrested him on September 1.
When news of a Christian being accused of blasphemy spread, many Christians feared their homes and churches would be attacked in reprisal. Thankfully, local police took action and were able to prevent any communal violence that often follows a religious minority being accused of blasphemy. Despite this positive effort, local Christians are still facing the consequences of a member of their community being accused of blasphemy.
“Muslims in the village have silently boycotted the Christians over this incident,” Gulwaiz said. “They are not behaving as they did earlier. They are not selling the daily articles to the Christians.”
Talking to ICC, Pastor Fayaz of Baptist Bible Church, said, “Five out of 18 Christian families in the village fled after the threats of being attacked. However, police have assured that foolproof security shall be provided to the Christians.”
The abuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws remains among the most serious issues faced by the country’s Christian community. In some instances, false accusations have led to Christians being murdered by enraged mobs and entire Christian neighborhoods being destroyed. Without serious reform, the blasphemy laws will continue to be the most effective tool for persecuting Christians in Pakistan.