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Pastor exonerated from blasphemy charges after judge rules that evidence is not valid


A pastor who was stitched up by land-grabbing Muslims in his home town of Kamahan in Lahore and was set free by Judge Malik Shah at Lahore High Court in the beginning of March 2017, has spoken out against the injustice he faced. 

During the proceedings  in March Judge Malik ridiculed the evidence shown by the prosecution against the obviously innocent Christian man. 

Judge Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan's verdict reads: "The accused allegedly made an extrajudicial confession … in police custody, therefore, this is not admissible as evidence in court. The Polygraphic test is a weak type of evidence and this cannot be relied upon blindly.”Justice Khan added, "No page of the Sipara (chapter) allegedly recovered from the possession of the petitioner was found to be torn. Mere recovery of a blue marker from the possession of the petitioner is by itself not sufficient to refuse bail to the petitioner because a blue marker is available in almost every second house of big cities of this country."

Rev Babu Shahbaz (42 yrs) was arrested on 30th December 2016, after a group of local Muslims found 150 torn pages of the Koran strewn in the street. His accusers then alleged that Pastor Babu Shahbaz's name was printed on 100's of the pages despite Pastor Shahbaz being illiterate.  Read full story (click here)

Rev Shahbaz was jailed in Lahore Prison and was charged under section 295-B of Pakistan's penal code for the crime of defiling the Koran, which is a non-bailable offence which carries the sentence of life imprisonment. 

295-B. Defiling, etc., of Holy Qur'an : Whoever willfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Qur'an or of an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life. Sec. 295-B added by P.P.C. (Amendment) Ordinance, I of 1982.

Though Rev Shahbaz has been exonerated the lopsided justice system still required him to pay a fine of 200,000 rupees (£1370) to be set free and allowed to return home.  Now he is back with his family but sold their home last week to move to a larger Christian community where he will be opening a small church and sharing his testimony.  He says the name of his church is 'Life and Light Ministry' a title chosen because it reflects how living a Godly life will preserve your own life.

Rev Shahbaz, spoke quite candidly with the BPCA and said:

"When I was imprisoned there was no-one to help me.  I was surrounded by people calling for me to be killed.  However, I stood on my faith and I trusted God, at no point did I lose my faith or my dignity.

"I was tortured in prison by police officer who themselves became the epitome of evil.  They tried to gain a false confession but did not so they made one up. God sent people to help me including NGO's like CLAAS and BPCA who stood in the gap for me.

"In the courts God gave the judge common-sense and I received an honest trial and freedom.  When I left the Jail I was welcomed by many Christians and Muslims who had been following my story and calling for my freedom.  Obviously not all Muslims agreed but I was surprised at the large number who stood in solidarity - I hope one day they will learn the true love of God so they may also benefit from his eternal kingdom."

Today almost a year after his arrest Pastor Shahbaz finally revealed the story of his release. Now that he is ready to leave Kamahan he wanted to share this news with the world.  He hopes that his new church and his testimony will become a beacon of hope for the people of Pakistan and bring others to Christ.

Grace Masih, BPCA officer in Lahore met with the family today to share his story, she said:

"God worked a miracle in the life of Pastor Shahbaz.  Very few people escape the blasphemy law of Pakistan so quickly and those that do are often targeted after their release.  It is a measure of his good understanding with people of all faiths, that he has survived in this manner."

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:

"The fact that such whimsical evidence could be used to convict a man in the lower courts, resulting in his imprisonment for a year is simply diabolical.

"Rev Shahbaz is very fortunate that in his case the Lahore High Court heard his case so soon, most blasphemy victims have had to wait for four years.  The rapidity of his appeal means that Rev Shahbaz has been able to get his life back together and even plan how he will take his ministry further.

"He has proved to be a committed, staunch Christian and God has preserved his life for much greater things I am sure.  It was great to hear that many Muslims joined him to celebrate his release from captivity, it proves there is still hope for change in the nation and that many souls may still be saved.

He added:

"Even at this cathartic moment when he was exonerated, the pernicious judicial system of Pakistan is found to be with fault, as they declare a price for an innocent mans freedom at 200,000 rupees.  Such avarice from the courts displays an undeniable truth Christians have to pay for justice and their freedom."

British Pakistani Christian Association have set up an appeal to help the family relocate and to help them build a new church within it.   If you would like to donate to the family to help them please (click here)

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