A new blasphemy accusation case has been reported in Farooqabad within Sheikhupura district today, only days after our chairman updated Fox news about Pakistan's most famous blasphemy law victim Asia bIbi (click here).
The accused are Awais Qamar (Saraj Masih's son), his wife Ruksana and her sister Farhana, all residents of Chak 460 Makkay. Awais bought a PVC banner (Pena Flex) from some Muslims to lay on the floor of their mud house as a carpet some time ago. A Muslim friend Khaneez Bibi visited their house on 30th June 2015 and offered 400 Pak rupees for the banner as they wanted to use it within their home, however the Christian family had paid 600 pak-rupees for the carpet and wanted some profit, so asked for 1000 pak rupees. Khaneez Bibi originally offered to pay 400 Pak-rupees and pay the rest via milk contributions as her husband owns a milk factory. When the offer was declined she agreed to pay 1000 Pak-rupees later that day and went to call her brother to help pay the required fee.
Later that afternoon Khaneez arrived with her brother Muhammad, Nasir Ahmad Yar's son who is a member of extremist Muslim group Sipa-e-sahaba. He noticed Arabic writings on the PVC banner and without giving it a second thought, started beating Rukhsana while Khaneez Bibi joined him. Khaneez Bibi then went out on the streets and started shouting that a blasphemy had occurred via Christian demons.
Within minutes the whole village surrounded the family's house. The villagers grabbed Awais Qamar and brutally sheared off his hair, they then proceeded to repeat the violence with Rukhsana and Farhana, however the mob were asked by a few of the locals not to do this with the women.
The village approached the local pastor and one man said to him; "Christians have committed a blasphemy so we are going to burn and kill the whole village." Pastor Asif immediately went out to try and bring peace to the situation and asked someone to call the police.
The violent mob then blackened the faces of the three Christian victims and placed a garland of shoes around their necks. They forced the three to sit on donkeys in satire of Christ's travel to Jerusalem ,insulting them and beating them while they were paraded as evil Christian demons across their village.
Thus far Police have opted not to charge Awais Qamar under section 295c of the blasphemy law of Pakistan, however the family were placed in a cell for their own protection. A panchayat (meeting of tribal/community leaders) has been held between the Christian and Muslim community. Thus far the Muslim community have agreed not to enact further violence on the Christian community, however some extremist elements are asking for the three to receive further beatings or have blasphemy charges laid against them. Negotiations are continuing and it is hoped that agreement will be reached on a cessation of violence and restoration of peace on the basis of permanent banishment for the three victims from this village .
BPCA intends to support this family and are seeking your prayers and donations for this purpose.
Mehwish Bhatti our lead Pakistan officer, visited the site, she said:
"The family have suffered hugely for what seems to be a personal vendetta enacted by neighbours. Despite lack of evidence the local imam immediately set about organising a hate mob against the victims. They have vacated their house and are in hiding and although Police have not yet charged them under the the blasphemy laws of Pakistan, and are attempting to bring peace between the Christian and Muslim community, some more extremist elements within the Muslim community are still calling for further beatings for the family or full blasphemy charges. Please keep the situation in your prayers."
Awais and Rukshana on their wedding day
This story will be updated as our officer Mehwish has already left for Sheikhupura to investigate.
Chairman of the BPCA, Wilson Chowdhry said:
"This latest attack reminds us that Christians have no worth in Pakistan. Police failed to retrieve any banner from the site of the alleged blasphemy. Irrespective of this paucity of evidence Awais Qamar was originally arrested and then later retained under police custody for his protection. No action was taken on any of the perpetrators of violence once again sending out a clear message that Christians can be attacked on a whim with impunity".
He added: "Sadly we cannot imagine how frightened our brothers and sisters were when they too were attacked by the mob. During the violence they have been paraded as demons in a community that already hates them, their faces blackened - a symbol of their alleged dark inner nature. The family are at the mercy of cultural, institutional and constitutional biases that have destroyed the purity of a land they were ostensibly there to protect."
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