(Voice of the Persecuted) Our foreign correspondent (Asia) reported to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) that blasphemy charges were laid against Bhola Ram, a 45-year old Hindu man, Vishal Tariq (18) and Adil Saleem Masih (25), both Christians. All three were employed at Civil Hospital Dunga Bunga as sweepers.
Bhola Ram, a government employee, is the main suspect in the case. He was relocated from Chak Panj Kosi, Southern Punjab to Donga Bunga. Ram had been transferred to work at Civil Hospital Dunga Bunga and an employees’ quarter was sanctioned for his stay. Among other things, he found the quarters filled with hospital records. He asked Dr. Kashif Nazir, the doctor in charge, about the records and was told to move them to the next room.
After Ram moved the records, he gathered all the trash and took it outside to be burned. While the trash was on fire, he saw what appeared to be pages containing verses of the Quran and he panicked. Not able move fast enough, due to a previously broken leg, he asked the two Christian boys to get the pages out of the fire.
VOP’s correspondent said,
“It’s worth noting that the Christians were so afraid of the situation that they risked themselves by going directly into the flames to save the pages. As a result, the hands and feet of both boys were burned.”
The report continued that a female health worker reported that Bhola Ram and the boys had burned pages of the Quran. Like wildfire, the news spread quickly causing journalists and locals to rush to the scene. It was alleged that the 3 accused were beaten by the people, but they denied it under pressure from the police.
The initial police report (FIR no. 1014/2017) was registered on September 28, 2017 against Bhola Ram and Vishal Tariq under section 295-B (Blasphemy law), 435, 201 and 109 of the Pakistani penal code. Muhammad Farooq, sub inspector at the police station, was the complainant. Adil Saleem Masih was not named in the report as one of the accused, but still alleged to be part of the incident. The FIR claimed the complainant received a call from a local journalist about the incident. When the police arrived at the scene, they were briefed of the situation and asked Dr. Nazir to write a statement and submit it to the police. In his statement, Dr. Nazir deliberately didn’t mention the burning of pages containing Quranic verses.
Ata-ur-Rehman, a district police officer (DPO) of Bahawalnagar, dismissed the FIR due to the support of the local lawyer community. They argued that Bhola Ram, being illiterate, could’nt have done what he was accused of. Religious groups present insisted the matter be brought to investigation, but DPO Ata ur Rehman maintained his position.
This is only one event where the accused have been freed without any damage, but there is no surety that they will be safe from violence or murder at the hands of extremists, warned the VOP correspondent.
Life-and-death Issue in Pakistan
Pakistan’s blasphemy cases have often evoked anger among groups in the majority Muslim country. This has led to extreme violence by large vigilante mobs and hardliners. Sadly, some have been murdered though later found innocent. Such was the case with Shahzad Masih (28yr) and his pregnant wife, Shama (25yr) who were brutally tortured, thrown into a brick kiln furnace and burned to death in an act of sheer barbarism by a vicious mob. The couple had three young children. See our report
Often the accused are continually considered guilty of blasphemy even though they have been exonerated from all charges. AMNESTY International shared that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often used against religious minorities and others who are the target of false accusations, while emboldening vigilantes prepared to threaten or kill the accused.
The report, “As good as dead”: The impact of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, shows how people accused of blasphemy face a grueling struggle to establish their innocence. Even if a person is acquitted of the charges against them and released, usually after long delays, they can still face threats to their life. View report
We witnessed this in the case of a young, mentally-challenged girl falsely accused of blasphemy. Rimsha Masih was arrested in August 2012 and accused of burning the pages of some Islamic texts. She was jailed after angry crowds threatened to burn Christian homes in the Islamabad Christian neighborhood where her family lived. The charge against Rimsha was brought to the attention of the global community and caused international outcry. The case against her later collapsed after police were informed the cleric of the mosque in Rimsha’s area had planted the burned pages on her. Pakistani courts eventually threw out the charges citing a lack of evidence, which angered many. The cleric was arrested for the false accusation, but later released without penalty, again, due to lack of evidence.
Following the infamous blasphemy case over 400 Christian families from her neighborhood were forced to flee due to serious threats. Rimsha, who had faced the possibility of the death penalty, was secretly evacuated from the country and given asylum in Canada where she now resides with her family.
Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Pakistan and for those who’ve fled persecution to seek asylum, but now face extreme hardship and discrimination in places such as Thailand.
VOP is on the ground in Thailand. Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
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