Relatives Claim Allegation Was Generated by Local Police
07/05/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that two Christian teenagers have been arrested and charged with committing blasphemy against Islam in Pakistan’s Punjab province. According to relatives of the accused, local police in Bahawalnagar have generated the deadly accusation against the Christians.
On June 29, 2019, Sunny Mushtaq, age 19, and Noman Asghar, age 17, left home in the evening to play cricket and never returned home. When the family inquired about the missing teens, they were informed by friends of Mushtaq and Asghar that police had arrested the pair “under some allegation.”
According to FIR #353/19, registered at the Bahawalnagar police station, Mushtaq and Asghar have been accused of receiving blasphemous sketches of the Prophet Muhammad on their WhatsApp numbers. Police reportedly recovered printouts of the blasphemous sketches from Mushtaq. However, Mushtaq’s family denies the allegation, stating, “The police have generated this story against Sunny.”
ICC’s local sources have confirmed that Mushtaq and Asghar did receive a blasphemous sketch on their smartphones. However, the sketch was sent by Bilal Ahmad, a Muslim. To date, police have not taken any action against Ahmad, the sender of the blasphemous image.
“Sunny is very popular in the locality because of his outstanding performances playing cricket,” Raza Mushtaq, Sunny Mushtaq’s brother, told ICC. “However, he often complained of being mistreated by Muslim players. Because of this, we used to suggest that he quit playing cricket. I even had to quit playing cricket with Muslims years back because I was experiencing the same.”
“This is another example of misuse of the blasphemy laws to settle personal scores against Christians,” Yousaf Gill, Director of Umeed Partnership Pakistan, told ICC. “For many years, human right defenders have been highlighting the misuse of blasphemy laws. However, authorities have not paid any attention and therefore Christians are suffering.”
“The authorities must conduct a fair investigation into the allegation and protect the Christians in police custody,” Gill continued. “It is up to the authorities to ensure that these laws are not misused against the weaker segments of society.”
ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, said, “False allegations of blasphemy are tragically common in Pakistan, especially against the country’s vulnerable Christian population. Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws are frequently abused by individuals seeking to settle personal scores or incite religious hatred against minority communities. We here at ICC express grave concern for both Sunny and Noman as they are now in a life and death struggle to prove their innocence. Christians are too often forced to pay a high price for such accusations. Pakistan must take steps to curb the widespread abuse of these deadly laws. Until then, we will continue to see Pakistani Christians facing deadly blasphemy charges for petty reasons.”
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