By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
QUETTA, PAKISTAN (ANS – October 29, 2016) — A nine-year-old Pakistan boy, and his mother, have narrowly escaped a blasphemy law death sentence after politicians and humanitarian groups intervened on their behalf.
According to the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) — http://www.britishpakistanichristians.org/ — the boy, Inzam, was at school when he was accused of having burnt a copy of the Quran, the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims believe to be a revelation from God.
The incident was alleged to have taken place on Thursday, October 20, 2016, and then, on the following day, he and his mother, Shakil, who works as a nurse at the Civil Hospital in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, were arrested after the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) 167 against them. (AFirst Information Report is a written document prepared by police organizations in Pakistan, when they receiveinformation about the commission of a cognizable offence.)
“The arrests were made, without investigation, on the testimony of a Muslim witness, and was totally in accordance with the draconian blasphemy laws of Pakistan,” a BPCA spokesperson told the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net). “A Muslim witness is given higher authority then non-Muslim testimonies under sharia law, these are Islamic laws that determine Pakistani law.
“News of the arrests created huge community tension, however prompt police action prevented threats to the Christian community and the formation of a mob from becoming a full-scale attack on an innocent Christian community.”
Over the next four days, local politicians, humanitarian groups, including the BPCA, began clamoring for justice for the “innocent mother and son.”
Then the BPCA spokesperson said that on the fourth day, a “miracle” occurred, and the two victims were released from the Civil Lines Police Station in Quetta on October 25th.
“The mother and her son have expressed, in no uncertain terms, that they had been [forcibly] interrogated and suffered torture during their four-day detainment,” he went on to say. “However, despite their treatment, neither of them confessed to the crime of blasphemy. Moreover, the Police have confirmed that no evidence of any alleged Quran desecration was found.”
Arrests of children and minors under the notorious blasphemy laws are not uncommon. In 2011, Faryal Bhatti was arrested for blasphemy after having incorrectly spelled a word during her Islamic Studies class at school. She was later set free, but her family were forced to flee their home and are still in hiding.
Then, last month Nabeel Masih, a 16-year-old boy, was arrested for allegedly posting an image of the of the Kabba in Mecca [a building at the center of Islam’s most sacred mosque], on his Facebook page. The crime should have received a maximum of a 10-year sentence, however in a recent ruling a judge has increased the charge meaning the terrified teenager could face death by hanging.
Pakistan-born Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, told ANS, “The blasphemy laws of Pakistan serve no purpose, but to cause pain and anguish to innocent victims. They are used as tools for discrimination and to settle personal vendettas.”
He went on to say, “International bodies like the UN turn a blind eye to the impact of such laws to the detriment of global society. Their failure to respond is simply creating schism and animosity and the rise of Islamophobia, despite the fact most liberal Muslims despise the laws themselves. Pakistan’s refusal to reform, or abrogate these laws, should be recognized as a contravention of human rights especially freedom of religion, conscience and free speech.
“Action must be taken now before Pakistan, a nuclear nation, reaches a point of no return, especially considering the whipping up of hatred towards minorities that Imams in Pakistan use the laws to generate.”
Photo captions: 1) Muslims attack Christians in a Pakistani village. 2) Pakistani Christians praying for peace in their country. 3) Wilson Chowdhry. 4) Dan Wooding with his BPCA award.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is the author of some 45 books, and has been a full-time journalist since 1968. While still based in London, Dan Wooding was a senior reporter for two of Great Britain’s largest-circulation newspapers, and was an interviewer for BBC Radio One and for LBC, the capital city’s main commercial talk station. Dan now has a weekly radio show and two TV shows all based in Southern California. Dan has received a special award from the BPCA for his long-standing reporting on the persecution of Christians in Pakistan.
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