Pakistan: Blasphemy charges filings against Christian, Hindus rise

At least four Christians have been charged for the crime of alleged blasphemy against Islam in Pakistan’s Punjab province in the last month, according to a report from Catholic news agency Agenzia Fides.

Meanwhile, the agency reports that in the province of Sindh in southern Pakistan, a man named Sateesh Kumar was killed and another seriously injured as a result of unrest between Hindus and Muslims in an incident reportedly triggered by a false accusation of blasphemy against a Hindu, who police say was mentally disabled.

The cases registered against Christians in Punjab include that of James Nadeem, 35, a resident in Gujrat, accused for writing offensive remarks about the Prophet Muhammed and sending them to a friend via the “WhatsApp” messaging service. When the news spread of the alleged insult to Islam, hundreds of Muslims crowded outside the Christian area, apparently with the intent of setting fire to the entire area. Fides reports that only the prompt intervention of the police prevented the massacre, while Christians left their homes as a precaution.

In Gujranwala, an anti-terrorism court recently issued a verdict of death sentence against two Christians – Anjum Naz Sindhu, a school headmaster, and Javed Naz – and a Muslim – Jaffar Ali – on charges of blasphemy. And, in another case, a Christian, Usman Masih, was accused of blasphemy for allegedly having sent an offensive message on the social network Facebook.

Pakistan – where about 200 million Muslims, about four million Christians and as many Hindus live – has one of the toughest laws against blasphemy among the Muslim-majority countries. It includes a wide range of actions or comments that could be interpreted as “defamation of Islam”. The law, introduced in 1986 by the dictator Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq without any parliamentary passage, provides for life imprisonment or the death penalty, but in many cases it is abused and used to settle personal vendettas.

According to data from the Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops of Pakistan, 200 Christians, 633 Muslims, 494 Ahmadis, and 21 Hindus (more than 1,300 cases) were charged with blasphemy from 1987 to 2013. In 2014 the complaints registered were 1400, while in the last 30 years 70 accused of blasphemy have been extrajudicially executed.

Source/Credit: Sight Magazine