Friday, August 14, 2009

In the Name of Blasphemy, Pakistani Christians Under Frequent Attack - 4

A Timeline of Blasphemy-Based Attacks

on Christians of Pakistan (contd.)

Shabaz Kaka, a Christian youth, under arrest
for desecrating the Quran, after he used
a washroom (toilet) adjacent to a mosque

Photo Courtesy:

2000 (May 3): Augustine "Kingri" Masih, also known as Ashiq "Kingri" Masih (21), was arrested on blasphemy charge after he tried to return to his Catholic faith by renouncing Islam. Earlier he had converted to Islam for marrying a Muslim girl, but the marriage did not take place. On June 29, 2002, the Faisalabad District and Sessions Court sentenced him to be hanged on charges of "slandering the Prophet Mohammad" and imposed a fine of 50,000 rupees (US$ 830).

2001 (April 1): Pervez Masih, a Christian owner and teacher of a high school in Chailayke Village of Sialkot District, was arrested on charges of uttering blasphemous remarks against Prophet Mohammad during tutoring sessions with three former students. It is thought that a Muslim owner and teacher of a rival school, out of jealousy and greed for gaining more students (business) from Pervez Masih's school, falsely implicated Mr. Masih, who can face a death penalty if found guilty. In November, 2001, he was denied bail.

2001 (June): Shahbaz Kaka was arrested on accusation of desecrating the Koran by tearing its pages and trampling on them. The fact is: Shahbaz Kaka had boarded a bus on that day from Lahore to Faisalabad. After several hours of journey, the bus stopped for a short break in front of a mosque. Like other passengers when Shahbaz came out of the adjacent washroom, a Muslim cleric noticed a cross hanging from his neck. He was questioned and accused of blasphemy. On the cleric's call, the police came, arrested Shahbaz and kept him in jail. His family was not informed of his arrest or whereabouts for about a year. On September 25, 2004, he was given life sentence. On appeal, he was finally acquitted on January 19, 2007.

2001 (June 4): Shahbaz Masih, suffering from bipolar affective disorder, also called manic-depressive illness, was arrested on the accusation of desecrating the Quran by tearing its pages, trampling upon them and burning them in a graveyard adjacent to a mosque in Faisalabad. He was charged under the blasphemy laws (section 295A and 295B of the Pakistan Penal Code).

The complainant, Qari Muhammad Rafique, was the imam (prayer leader) of the local mosque. He said in his application in the police station that when he heard shouting in the graveyard, he and two others went out of the mosque to see what was happening. They found Shahbaz Masih, wearing a cross from his neck, doing the desecration.

On August 23, 2000, Shahbaz Masih was admitted to the government mental hospital in Lahore, but on September 4 of the same year he fled the hospital. He was rearrested later. On September 25, 2004, the lower court of the Additional District and Sessions Judge gave him life sentence. That day numerous fanatic and armed Muslims were menacingly present in his courtroom and outside. On appeal, the Lahore High Court on January 19, 2007 acquitted him of the blasphemy charges because the article 84 of the Pakistan Penal Code also stipulates that a person of unsound mind cannot be convicted.

2001 (June 15): A Gawalmandi (located in Lahore City) police officer arrested Anwar Kenneth (48), a former officer of the government Fisheries Department, while distributing a Gospel booklet. Earlier, someone had filed a blasphemy allegation against him with the police. He was sentenced to death and imposed a fine of 500,000 rupees (US$ 8,300) by an additional judge in Lahore on July 18, 2002.

Lawyer Pervaiz Alam Choudhury mentioned that there were errors in the proceedings in Anwar Kenneth's case because a mentally deranged person like him cannot be convicted for a crime without certified board of directors' opinion about the patient's ability to stand a trial. Pakistani Catholic Bishop Samuel Azariah said that he knew Mr. Kenneth personally and he believed that he needed medical treatment. Social workers also stated that Mr. Kenneth had a history of psychiatric problems.

Anwar Kenneth is said to have claimed to be a prophet who received God's revelations. He refused to appeal his case because he claimed that he would not die even if thrown into the fire. Observers say that this is indicative of his medical condition.

2003 (November 20): Anwar Masih, a day labourer (32) from Shahdara town near Lahore and a father of four, was arrested under blasphemy law under section 295(B). Anwar had an encounter with his neighbour Naseer Ahmad, who had converted to Islam from Christianity. Naseer Ahmad complained to the police that Anwar spoke harshly about his keeping of beard as a Muslim and insulted Prophet Mohammad. In December, 2004, he was acquitted by the Lahore High Court. In August, 2007, when Muslim militants threatened his employer for employing Anwar "the blasphemer", he was retrenched from his job. Since then he went into hiding.

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