Eighteen-year-old Christian faces possibility of being put to death after being accused of burning pages of the Quran

Pakistani police have detained and imprisoned a teenager for allegedly burning pages of the Quran outside a shrine, according to officials.

Asif Massih, an 18-year-old Christian, was arrested on blasphemy charges on the night of August 12, shortly after a complaint was lodged, police confirmed to Al Jazeera on Sunday.

The alleged incident took place in Jam Kayk Chattha village, which is near the town of Wazirabad in central Punjab province.

“He is in jail now,” local police official Muhammad Asghar at the Alipur Chattha police station, where the case was registered, told Al Jazeera.

“When the police took the suspect into custody and brought him to a police check-post, a crowd of around 200 men gathered outside … demanding the culprit be handed over to them,” local police official Pervaiz Iqbal told AFP news agency.

“We then secretly moved the culprit to the police station in Wazirabad where he was interrogated and confessed to his crime.”

Massih was charged under section 295-B of Pakistan’s penal code, added Iqbal, referring to a part of the country’s constitution that makes the death sentence mandatory for anyone who damages or desecrates the Quran.

He will stand trial and faces the possibility of being put to death.

‘Law being misused’

Blasphemy against Islam is a sensitive subject in Pakistan, where punishment for the crime ranges from a fine to a mandatory death sentence, depending on the specific offence.

Currently, about 40 people are on death row or serving life sentences for blasphemy in Pakistan, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Increasingly, however, right-wing vigilantes and mobs have taken the law into their own hands, killing at least 71 people over alleged blasphemy since 1990, according to an Al Jazeera tally.

A Pakistani man was sentenced to death for committing blasphemy on Facebook in June.

In May, a 10-year old boy was killed, and five others were wounded when a mob attacked a police station in an attempt to lynch a Hindu man charged with blasphemy for allegedly posting an incendiary image on social media.

In April, a university student, Mashal Khan, was killed and two others wounded during a violent mob attack after being accused of committing blasphemy in the northern city of Mardan.

Legal experts and human rights activists in Pakistan have increasingly called for the law to be amended or abolished.

“This law is being misused by people to take revenge against their opponents, and it is very easy to charge anyone for blasphemy,” Mehdi Hasan, chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, told Al Jazeera from Lahore last week.


Source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/08/pakistan-teenager-detained-blasphemy-170820153639270.html


Ramadan a Dangerous Time for Religious Minorities

The unconscious man was covered in filth, and being rushed to a hospital.

Irfan Masih was a sewer cleaner, and had been stricken by poisonous gases trapped inside a sewer hole. Time was of the essence. But the emergency staff at the hospital in Pakistan’s Sindh province refused to treat Masih — a 30-year-old Christian — until he was thoroughly washed.

Then they cleaned Masih and pumped oxygen into him, but the pump was empty. Lying in the corner of the hospital, Irfan died — as he was gasping for air.

He was never treated by a physician. It was Ramadan, and the doctors were fasting.

“My brother died during the process of cleansing the filth from his body,” Irfan’s brother, Parvez, told a local newspaper. Although Muslim medical professionals across the world do interact with patients in all sorts of conditions during Ramadan, according to Irfan’s mother, the doctors refused to treat him because they were fasting and said her son was “napaak” (unclean).

During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and having sex during daylight hours. For non-Muslims in Pakistan, the holiday can be a dangerous time. Last year, police severely beat an elderly Hindu man for eating publicly during the holiday. He was eating food given to him by a charity.

Similarly, a 2013 video showed a man who said he was beaten up for eating publicly during the Muslim fasting month.

In Pakistan, people from the Christian community face severe discrimination, and are often given jobs in sanitation. Angered at the doctors’ negligence, people from the Christian community staged a protest outside the press club in Umerkot.

Critics blame Pakistan’s Ehtram-e-Ramadhan ordinance for creating this intolerant environment. Enacted in 1981, the ordinance seeks to ensure that the sanctity of the month of Ramadan is preserved.

Article 3 of the Ramadan ordinance says:

1. No person who, according to the tenets of Islam, is under an obligation to fast shall eat, drink or smoke in a public place during fasting hours in the month of Ramadhan.

2. Whoever contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1) shall be punishable with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.

Although the law does not mention non-Muslims, the closing of all hotels, restaurants and even common food stores during the day does affect their lives.

The law defines a public place as “any hotel, restaurant, canteen, house room, tent, enclosures, road lane, bridge or other place to which the public have access.” It further requires that those places remain closed during all fasting hours.

The ordinance states that it intends to protect the holiness of Ramadan, but while doing so, it clearly violates the principles of fundamental freedoms.

An amendment to the law — passed last month — increases the fine from Rs.500 to Rs.25,000 (about $388) for hotel owners who violate the statute. Television channels and theaters have to pay a minimum fine of Rs.500,000 (about $7,7670) for violating the law.

How can someone protect the sanctity of any “blessed month” by adopting such harsh, coercive and tyrannical measures. Respect is earned, not imposed.

When the state starts legislating on religious grounds, it creates an environment of intolerance toward religious minorities, and legitimizes discrimination. Pakistan has done this with its “Ehtram-e-Ramadhan ordinance.” Just last week, four people were arrested by the police for eating during fasting hours.

This ordinance enshrines intolerance and violates basic human rights. By closing down all the restaurants and food stores, it not only infringes upon the rights of various religious minorities in Pakistan, but also on those Muslims who do not want to comply with the ordinance.

Silence from the local media and Pakistani human rights groups over this controversial law is quite depressing.

Ammar Anwer

Rana Tanveer attacked for coverage of religious minorities

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges Pakistan’s government to take whatever measures are necessary to protect journalists after Rana Tanveer, a newspaper reporter who covers religious minorities, was first threatened and then, two days later, was deliberately knocked down by a car in Lahore.

Tanveer was riding his motorcycle to a meeting with family members in Lahore on 9 June when he was deliberately rammed from behind by a car – a common form of violence against journalists in Pakistan. He is still hospitalized with a broken leg.

Two days before the attack, he arrived home to find his front door vandalized and covered with graffiti accusing him of being an “unbeliever who deserves to be killed.” He immediately moved to a different location and reported the threats to the police, who took no action.

Tanveer writes for Express Tribune, an English-language newspaper that has been physically attacked on several occasions over its coverage of the problems of religious minorities in Pakistan. Tanveer himself has covered violence against these minorities, who are often targeted by religious groups without any reaction from the authorities.

RSF calls on the authorities to implement concrete and effective policies to put a stop to the frequent reprisals against journalists who cover sensitive issues. The government must recognize that its lack of action encourages such acts of violence and that there is an urgent to need to take appropriate measures to combat the repeated attacks.

Pakistan continues to be one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists. The government shows little interest in taking action to address this situation and in fact its latest measures seem to display hostility towards media freedom. Last month, the authorities announced plans for a “code of conduct” for the print media and disciplinary measures against two journalists with Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest newspaper.

Four bloggers who had expressed liberal views and had commented on enforced disappearances were themselves abducted in January. They were released a few weeks later.

Pakistan is ranked 139th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

Source: https://rsf.org

Again Shia community targeted in Quetta. Two Killed

According to activists, “unidentified armed men opened fire and killed man and woman belonging to Shia community in south western city of Quetta.”

Muhammad Ismail was one of the two victims shot while riding his motorbike, and he is also one of the many victims targeted in a wave of anti-Shiism in Pakistan.

In Quetta, the Shia are easy targets. Most belong to the Hazara sect, numbering in approximately 600,000. They speak a different language and are ethnically central Asian and Mongolian.  Because of their differences, average Hazaras make open targets for radicalized terrorists to pick off in an effort of a total racial purge of Pakistan. In 2012 an extremist group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, sent an open letter to the Hazaras of Quetta stating that “It is our religious duty to kill all Shia, and to cleanse Pakistan of this impure nation… All Shias are worthy of killing and the intention is to make Pakistan their graveyard.”
Shia Rights Watch implores Pakistan to uphold its sovereign laws and the Universal Declaration of Human rights, for which Pakistan voted in favor. The continuation of these attacks prove that Pakistan has no control over the extremist groups within its borders, invalidating its capacity or will to protect its people. These attacks also violate Article 1 under which “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Pakistan needs to show a genuine and honest effort to prevent Sunni Pakistanis from attacking more Shia Pakistanis for the sanctity of both state and its peoples.

You are against Minorities too If your are quiet

“We used to receive numerous threat calls. We had told Maryam to stop picking up the phone. Though sometimes those calls seemed fake to us but to be on a safe side we had informed about them to the nearest police station too. Then suddenly one day Maryam’s friend came home, she was scared and told us that some goons had abducted Maryam.

We all went numb. No one was able to think that how can we find her or whom should we ask about Maryam? Soon our neighbors came to know about this incident and they gathered with us to go till the police station. That whole night her brother kept searching for Maryam on streets. For 3 days no one helped us not even the police. Then our phone rang and I picked it up.

I was told that my daughter had accepted Islam and after that she was married to Mohd. Ali and now she will stay with her husband. Listening to this some people said that at least she was alive. Though I can understand the pain. I am her mother and I know how difficult it is to live without your will. A life without choices is worst than death. I have no idea about Maryam’s condition. We were never told anything else. I don’t know what kind of pain she must be going through.

I live in Pakistan and I have no way to bring my daughter back. Do such people really don’t fear Allah?? Those people who didn’t stood up for my daughter , people who are relieved that my daughter is now away from me , people who do not understand the pain of a mother , how can such people preach Islam??? Such people are devil in my eyes. Being a minority in Pakistan snatched away my daughter!!”

– Musarat Mushtaq

What was his fault?

” When I saw him, his condition was worth sympathy. What else can one think while looking at a paralyzed person. One day, suddenly we started talking and I came to know that he is an engineer. While working for Pakistan’s Air Force he became paralyzed. An interesting about him remained that earlier he was a Christian but due to his intimacy with Islam, he became a Muslim. It amused me to listen him, how simply he spoke about the teachings of Quran and Hadees.

Once while having tea he said ‘Hafiz, we all are Muslim. This whole world is a Muslim. People may make different religions but Islam is the only religion of the world.’

The news about him being a converted Muslim was slowly spreading. One day that unfortunate day came too when Tahir was coming back after teaching kids and a man entered inside , shouting ‘If you won’t give me 10,000 then you will curse your life soon and don’t forget that you are a converted Muslim.’

I thought it was just a fake warning for taking money but till evening, an angry crowd had gathered against Tahir. While returning from office, I came to know that Tahir was first accused of disrespecting Quran and Tahir miyan was murdered by the mob.”

– Hafiz Ahmed

The Great Minority is Under Threat

Increasingly youth are converting to Islam! this time victims are “KALASH people”!

At school, children take a compulsory class on Islam but not about their own traditions, some face anger from Muslim neighbours in the region, who believe God is enraged by the tribe’s un-Islamic practises and has unleashed natural disasters ─ floods and earthquakes ─ on the area as punishment.

I do not understand that why these sick Islamic people wants to convert everyone into Islam! what they will get?? can’t they live peacefully and let others live peacefully!!! If Allah wants everyone to follow him then why cannot he just make everyone Muslims by peace and love instead of using force, violence, torture and brainwashed tactics.

Kalash women are considered “impure” during their periods, during which they are not supposed to touch others.
Their fight to get the Kalash on to UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List began in 2008, but eight years on remains mired in sluggish bureaucracy.

“The government of Pakistan has not submitted any dossier so far either for preservation of the Kalash cultural heritage or to safeguard any endangered part,” Aziz
Dear Aziz, The Govt only cares for Muslims, can’t you see Hindus, Christians, Ahmadis and others minority are going through? compare with those, you guys are still lucky!! but Shame on Govt. of Pakistan, who is totally failed to protect the minority and supporting Islamic fundamentalists!

Source: http://www.dawn.com/news/1251621/