Pakistani authorities have detained a Christian young man on charges of blasphemy against Islam, but activists remained hopeful Tuesday, May 22, that he would be released on bail.
Sajid Masih, 20, was reportedly detained Friday, May 18, in Pakistan’s Punjab province after unwillingly burning pages of the Koran, deemed a holy book by Muslims, which was allegedly placed in a garbage box.
He was send to the central jail of the province’s Sheikhpura District near the Farooqabad area where the incident occurred, said Farrukh Harrison, executive director of the World Vision in Progress Foundation, an advocacy group supporting the family.
Harrison occussed Muslim hardliners of attempting to implicate the Christian in blasphemy saying the box with the Koran was “placed by the Theerk-e- Nafazey Muhammadi” group, or ‘Movement for the Enforcement of Islam’.
There was no immediate comment from the group or from the man who filed the blasphemy complaint, identified as Muhammad Shar-ullah-zaman.
Christians said the tipped-off police detained the resident shortly after the reported incident, prompting “thousands” of Muslims, including clerics, to demand they hand him over from a Farooqabad police station.
Instead police decided to “sent him to the Central jail Sheikhpura,” said Harrison. He added that his informed group has been able to meet the suspect’s father Inayat Masih and local religious and political leaders in an effort to get him released.
World Vision in Progress filed a bail application Monday, May 21, but it was not immediately clear when and if he would be released, Harrison said.
It was the latest in a series of detentions of Christians on charges of blasphemy against Islam, which is punishable by life imprisonment or death under Pakistan’s internationally condemned blasphemy legislation.
The latest detention overshadowed news of the release of a Pakistani Christian who claimed to have been falsely charged with “blasphemy” after rescuing his 8-year-old nephew from a beating by Muslim boys. Dildar Masih, a 27-year-old father of two young children, told reporters he was acquitted on March 26 as prosecutors failed to produce any evidence against him.
Yet, other Christians remain detained, including at least two mothers. Farm worker Asia Bibi has been behind bars since 2009 and received an internationally condemned sentence of death by hanging for blasphemy, after colleagues claimed she made derogatory remarks about Islam’s prophet Muhammad.
If carried out, she would be the first known woman in Pakistan to be lawfully killed for blasphemy.
More recently, a mother of a 6-month-old girl has been “been wrongly jailed” since late February as Pakistani authorities failed to file a charge sheet within the mandatory 14-day period against the young Christian on “false charges” of “blaspheming” the prophet of Islam, her attorney said.
Shamim Bibi, 26, was reportedly captured February 28 in her village Chak No. 170/7R Colony, in the Fort Abbas area of Punjab’s Bahawalpur district.
Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim nation, has come under domestic and international pressure to change or abandon the blasphemy laws.
Two politicians, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Christian government minister Shahbaz Bhatti, were both shot and killed in two separate incidents last year for their public opposition to the controversial legislation. (BosNewsLife)