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PAKISTAN – A Christian arrested for alleged blasphemy

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Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – Babu Shahbaz, a Christian from the village of Kamahan, near Lahore, was arrested by the police for alleged blasphemy. As Fides learns, on December 30 a formal complaint was filed to the police against Babu Shahbaz, under Article 295 b of the Penal Code of Pakistan. The complaint came after the Muslim, Haji Nadeem accused the Christian of having torn and thrown pages of the Koran in the street. Shahbaz is illiterate and cannot write.

Babu Shahbaz, 41, lives in the village of Kamahan, is married and has three children. An evangelical Christian who in the past 15 years has organized prayer meetings at his house, and many Christians and Muslims participate in the small home meetings, asking blessings and healing prayer. The local Muslims have shown impatience towards the growing popularity of Shahbaz and therefore have accused him of a false case of blasphemy.

After the complaint, the police stopped the Christian and his family, sending several officers to the village to monitor the situation and prevent possible mass reactions against Christians.

Shahbaz’ family have asked for assistance to the NGO Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) who spoke with the police and ascertained the situation, providing legal assistance to the family.

“The abuse of the blasphemy law continues to attack Christians and other religious minorities”, says CLAAS to Fides. “We hope the story is clarified as soon as possible, otherwise the fate of Shahbaz will be the same as Asia Bibi, Sawan Masih, Zaffar Bhatti and many others who, innocent, have been in prison for years. It is urgent to amend the blasphemy law to prevent abuses. If the government does not change this law, false cases of blasphemy against religious minorities will continue. The blasphemy law violates international human rights treaties ratified by the government of Pakistan”.

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