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An innocent Pakistani Christian sweeper Sawan Masih, 26, has been sentenced to death under false accusations of blasphemy against prophet Muhammad, after waiting for a trial since March 2013.
These allegations were the result of a personal grudge between Sawan and a muslim friend. These accusations also led a mob of 3000 angry Muslims to burn down a christian village leaving the poverty stricken christian residents homeless and penniless. The Blasphemy laws in Pakistan: 295 forbids damaging or defiling a place of worship or a sacred object. 295-A forbids outraging religious feelings. 295-B forbids defiling the Quran.
295-C forbids defaming the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Except for 295-C, the provisions of 295 require that an offense be a consequence of the accused’s intent. Defiling the Quran merits imprisonment for life. Defaming Muhammad merits death with or without a fine. If a charge is laid under 295-C, the trial must take place in a Court of Session with a Muslim judge presiding These laws have been misused as a weapon to execute revenge and religious intolerance on the religious minorities and Muslims in Pakistan.
Pakistani governor Salman Taseer and Federal Minister for Religious minorities in Pakistan Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated in 2011 for speaking against these blasphemy laws and advocating release of Christian woman Asia BiBi who is still in prison under false allegations of blasphemy.
In response to the viral petition that is being signed from all over the world for the release of Sawan Masih, Italian Parliamentarian for the Democratic Party Paolo Petrini sent an open message to Adan Farhaj President of Federation of Pakistani Christian Associations Italy and Overseas Coordinator All Pakistan Christian League.
He said, “This is a chilling story, but unfortunately not the first of fierce religious intolerance. I think it is intolerable that governments have in this time and age allowed ordinances that can be used to target the weaker sections of its society. Such ordinances with the aim to persecute religious minorities need to be sorted out.The international community must have a stronger response to stop such injustices. I, along with a group of Italian parliamentarians have signed a motion on this tragic incident.”
Adan Farhaj commended the message sent by Petrini and said, “It is encouraging to see that the voices of the people from around the world has been taken note of by Paolo.I commend the brave statement by him. The petition may or may not help release Sawan but we must continue to try everything within our power to see that justice and equality is exercised. No section of a society should be marginalized because of their personal beliefs as that has nothing to do with the working of the state.”
He encouraged everyone to sign the petition to help raise awareness about Sawan’s plight in their communities. Sawan’s lawyer Naeem Shakir has appealed against the death sentence in the high court. The petition which is addressed to Nawaz Sharif the Prime Minister of Pakistan and Andrew Bennet Ambassador for Religious Freedom Canada may help in reviewing the death sentence and the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. The power of social media has become an undeniable force.