Pakistani Christian Arrested for Blasphemy After Pages of Quran Discovered in Drain
Christians Continue to Be Disproportionately Targeted by Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws
09/01/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a Christian man in Pakistan’s Khybar Pakhtunkhwa province has been arrested and charged under the country’s blasphemy laws. The arrest reportedly took place on August 30, 2020, in the Risalpure neighborhood of Nowshera.
A First Information Report (FIR) regarding the incident (FIR #460/2020) claims that residents of Risalpure discovered pages of the Quran in a drain. A video of the discovery was posted to social media on August 27 and reportedly went viral.
Days later, on August 30, police arrested David Masih, a Christian from the Kachi Line area of Risalpure. Masih was charged with committing blasphemy under Section 295-B of Pakistan’s Penal Code. With Masih in custody, police say they have started their investigation into the case. To date, no information regarding Masih’s connection with the desecrated Quran has been shared by police.
If found guilty, Masih could face life in prison.
In Pakistan, false accusations of blasphemy are widespread and often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. Accusations are highly inflammatory and have the potential to spark mob lynchings, vigilante murders, and mass protests.
Since Pakistan added Section 295-B and 295-C to the country’s blasphemy laws in 1987, the number of blasphemy accusations has skyrocketed. Between 1987 and 2017, 1,534 individuals in Pakistan have been accused of blasphemy. Of those 1,534, 829 accusations (54%), were made against religious minorities. With Christians only making up 1.6% of Pakistan’s total population, the 238 accusations (15.5%) made against Christians are highly disproportionate.
Currently, 25 Christian are imprisoned on blasphemy charges in Pakistan, including David Masih. These 25 Christians are defendants in 22 blasphemy cases represented at various levels of the judicial process in Pakistan.
ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, said, “We here at International Christian Concern are concerned by the news that another Christian has been arrested on blasphemy charges. We call on Pakistani authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the accusation to ensure that David Masih has not been falsely accused. The abuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws must be curbed. Too often these laws have been a tool in the hands of extremists seeking to stir up religiously motivated violence against minority communities. Without real reform, religious minorities, including Christians, will face more false blasphemy accusations and the extreme violence that often accompanies these accusations.”