In Pakistan, Christians are constantly having to go to jail because they have allegedly offended Islam. As the aid organization for persecuted Christians, Open Doors, observes, an argument or the refusal of a Christian to convert to Islam often unleashes the charge of blasphemy. As a rule, Christians cannot expect a fair trial. In addition, such cases unleash harsh reactions in society against the Christian community. Judges are putting them under such pressure that accused Christians have only slim prospects for a fair trial ore even a speedy exoneration. Christians are seen as second-class citizens in Pakistan anyway and are consistently discriminated against. The islamic country ranks tenth place on the Index of International Persecution. Open Doors is asking for prayer for a young mother and a 26-year-old Christian who are currently under threat of condemnation for blasphemy.
Because the 26-year-old Shamim Bibi would not convert to Islam, she must now give an account of blasphemy before the court. As relatives report, the mother of a five-month-old baby from Khichiwala (Punjab Province) was arrested on February 28th. Her neighbors in the township of Fort-Abbas lodged a complaint against her. The Christian has been charged with offensive statements against the prophet Muhammad. At a sentencing according to paragraph 295-C of the penal code (blasphemy law), Shamim Bibi is under threat of life in prison or the maximum sentence of death. Over a year ago, the Christian Asia Noreen (also called Asia Bibi) was likewise sentenced to death by hanging. The punishment however was not carried out. The mother of five is still in prison.
Shamim Bibi’s brother and brother-in-law are convinced that she is not guilty. According to their statements, near relatives pressured the woman four days before her arrest to convert to Islam. According to initial reports by police (FIR), a local imam of two of her neighbors heard that Bibi had spoken pejoratively about the prophet Muhammad in her yard. The report gave no further statements about her exact statements. According to Bibi’s brother-in-law, one of the two witnesses actually denied having heard something that would support the accusation of blasphemy. The investigating police officer Urfan Ullah admitted that one of the two witnesses actually admitted not having been at the scene of the “crime.” “The other witness is standing by his statement,” Ullah said. “Shamim Bibi so far has not produced anything that can prove her innocence.” Ullah denies having acted against the Christian because of pressure by local Muslims. News of her arrest spread quickly in the area. Several residents surrounded her house and shouted the demand of a “harsh punishment of the infidels.”
Pakistan II: Christian allegedly burned Qur’an pages
Despite of lacking evidence, a young Christian must continue to remain imprisoned at Camp Jail due to alleged desecration of the Qur’an. His bail was rejected the beginning of January. The 23-year-old Khuram Masih was arrested on December 5th last year in Shahdara near the large city Lahore. His landlord stated that Masih burned a few Qur’an pages for tea water. Khuram Masih considers the accusation to be an act of revenge by his landlord. The two had had a quarrel over rent payments. According to paragraph 295-B of the Pakistani penal code, the intentional desecration of the Qur’an is cause for life in prison. Masih’s previous attorneys pointed out in court that the police had investigated only on the basis of vague charges and that no incriminating evidence was available, though.
Court is not non-partisan
Perhaps the request of release on bail was made prematurely, according to Asif Aqeel, managing director of the Community Development Initiative (CDI), which is associated with the European Center for Law and Justice. “There is no purpose for trying to obtain bail at a court of first instance,” Aqeel said. “The judges are under extreme pressure on the part of religious groups and cannot release any of those accused for blasphemy on bail one month after the time of the incident.” These courts would also, therefore, deliver convictions in blasphemy cases. Aqeel says further: “The accused must spend some months and often years in prison simply because the judges don’t want to lay their own life on the line.” (Open Doors)