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6/17/2024 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) — Sunny Mushtaq and Noman Asghar, both Christians, were arrested on June 29, 2019, in Pakistan on blasphemy charges for receiving cartoon drawings of the Prophet Muhammad on the popular messaging app WhatsApp. 

Five years on, the two cousins, both teenagers at the time of their arrests, remain imprisoned on charges of insulting Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Mushtaq is still awaiting sentencing, while his cousin, Asghar, on May 30, 2023, was sentenced to death for his perceived crimes by a Pakistani court in Bahawalpur. 

International Christian Concern (ICC) previously reported that a Muslim sent the images to the men but was not detained. Pakistani authorities did, however, arrest Mushtaq and Asghar after Mushtaq allegedly printed out the WhatsApp drawings for others to see.  

Attorney Aneeqa Maria Anthony, who is representing the men, expressed disappointment at Asghar’s death sentence. 

“The magistrate ignored all the procedures and dismissed all the evidence in favor of the accused,” Anthony stated. “He only wanted to complete his ‘sacred duty’ to punish an alleged blasphemer. We expect the same fate for Sunny Mushtaq. They were arrested for a teenage game. Their families are suffering greatly.” 

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which include offending or insulting Muhammad, carry extreme penalties of life imprisonment or death. According to The New York Times, the laws “are often used to settle personal scores or persecute minorities.” 

In a recent interview with American Family News, ICC President Jeff King stated that it is unlikely that Christians living in Pakistan would break the nation’s blasphemy laws. 

“Pakistan is very hostile towards Christians,” King said. “They live as third-class citizens, and no Christian is ever going to touch anything or get involved in anything that would be deemed blasphemous. It’s equivalent to pouring gasoline all over your house, leaving a pile of dynamite at the front door, and playing with matches at your front door.” 

Asghar’s father, Asghar Masih, explained that his family has remained steadfast in their faith despite the grim sentence given to his son.  

“[His] mother and I yearn for him every day,” Masih said. “Our hearts broke today when our counsel informed us about the death verdict. But our faith in Christ has not waivered, and we trust God that He will rescue us from this suffering.” 

To read more news stories, visit the ICC Newsroom. For interviews, please email [email protected].