Mehwish Bhatti BPCA Lead Pakistan officer with the family of Ishfaq.
There is no end to the misery of Christians in Pakistan - in the latest debacle the draconian blasphemy laws of Pakistan have been used against an
engineer named Ishfaq Masih after he simply asked for payment for repairing a Muslim clients motorcycle. Mr Masih is the father of a two year old son.
15 June 2017, Muhammad Irfan, an important and wealthy man in his community visited the shop of Ishfaq Masih (23 years), seeking repairs to his motorbike.
Image of Mr Masih's shop and home which is now firmly shut.
Mr Masih agreed to undertake the work and hours later after having completing the necessary repairs he sought payment for his hard labour. The price
he offered was fair and appropriate but to the Muslim client it was a complete affront. He could not believe that a 'filthy evil Christian' had the
audacity to seek compensation for work undertaken. In his misguided spirit to the request for payment, he aggressively retorted:
"I am a Sufi Fakir (a religious ascetic) as such you are required to provide your services to me free of charge.”
Ishfaq Masih a resident of Green Town, Baghariyan Road, Lahore boldly replied,
“I only believe in Jesus Christ and no other deity, so please gave me the payment since I repaired your bicycle.”
Mr Irfan's response was not only over the top but life threatening. He started shouting and beating Ishfaq hollering out that a blasphemy had been
committed which resulted in a mob gathering at Mr Masih's bike shop. Some locals intent on seeking the arrest of a blasphemer went directly to the local
Police station less then 100m away from Mr Masih's shop. Later Muhammed Ishfaq (Mr Masih's landlord) lodged a First Incident Report (FIR) against Mr Masih
and accused him of using abusive words against the holy prophet Muhammed.
According to the FIR, Muhammad Ishfaq the complainant has alleged that on 15 June 2017 at approximately 12 PM, Ishfaq Masih was sitting within his shop
and uttering abusive words against Muhammed. The rather bizarre FIR also alleges Muhammad Irfan, Muhammad Nawaz, Muhammad Naveed, and one other visited
the shop of Ashfaq Masih together and found him blaspheming. It states that they asked him to stop his nonsense, but he carried on abusing Muhammed
before the five Muslim men.
This is an act that the BPCA finds hard to believe due to the fear most Christians possess of offending Muslims in a hyper-intolerant nation. Moreover
the restrain that the five men would have had to have shown in the face of such a provocating insult to Muhammed, is opposite to the normal reaction of
violence that would have seen Mr Masih killed no doubt. It is not unusual for an immediate community extrajudicial killing for such a crime.
Despite the dubious nature of the crime report the biased police force of Pakistan, fulfilled their 'unwritten primary duty' and arrested and charged Ashfaq
Masih a 'loathsome Christian' who has been jailed since then. No investigation took place before the arrest despite four of the complainants being absence
from the original crime scene.
Masih's attorney, Riaz Anjum, told Morning Star Newsthat the one who filed the police report accusing Masih of blasphemy was Mohammad Ishfaq, the landlord of the building that houses Masih's repair shop.
The First Information Report was filed under Section 295-C of Pakistan's penal code.
According to the penal code, an offense under 295-C is punishable by
death or life in prison.
Anjum said that Mohammed Ishfaq's FIR claimed that there are five men who can act as witnesses to say that Masih had insulted the prophet Muhammad.
However, Anjum explained that the FIR is contradictory because none of the other men mentioned as witnesses were present when the alleged act of blasphemy
"Irfan had gathered the other men, including the complainant Mohammad Ishfaq, and they then concocted the allegation against Ishfaq Masih and got him arrested,"
Anjum explained. "The FIR is quite weak, as it does not contain any specific blasphemous words that my client may have allegedly said."
"It also shows that the police did not even bother to investigate the charge before registering a case against the poor man," the lawyer added. "This is
the routine practice of the police in blasphemy cases, and it's a shame that nothing is being done to stop it."
A group called PCLJ has provided legal cover to Ishfaq Masih and BPCA have agreed to raise funds to help towards the living expenses of the family who have been moved to a safe house. If you would like to donate towards the family please (click here)
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:
"An innocent man could potentially lose his life and his crime was to simply ask for payment for services undertaken to repair a Muslims bike. When I hear
stories like this I simply want to cry and pray for the victims seeking their freedom and safety.
"I am sure these brutal accounts trigger the same sympathy and anguish in many of us in the west but the fact remains that Muslims in Pakistan are enacting the unjust blasphemy law in their country against suffering Christians with an increased frequency.
"It is a poor indictment that these draconian laws still exist in their alleged democracy and that the process for charging individuals is undertaken with consummate ease. Sadder still is the desire for police to support these base allegations and the eagerness they illustrate for the rapid and brutal capture of 'undesirable Christians.
"I wish I could say my chagrin ends there but then I would be ignoring the near ubiquitous hatred that permeates throughout Pakistani citizens towards the minorities living within them. The literal translation of 'Pakistan' is land of the pure and sadly many zealots are driven towards cleansing their lands of the Kaffir (infidels)."