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Pakistani court sentences Christian man to death for blasphemy

In August 2023, at least 24 churches and over 80 houses belonging to Christians in Jaranwala tehsil of Faisalabad district, were burnt down by a mob enraged over reports that two Christians had desecrated the Quran.
Last Updated : 01 July 2024, 14:50 IST

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Lahore: A Pakistani court has sentenced a Christian man to death for posting a "blasphemous post" on social media which triggered a mob attack, causing the burning of dozens of Churches and houses of members belonging to the minority community in Punjab province last year, officials said on Monday.

In August 2023, at least 24 churches and over 80 houses belonging to Christians in Jaranwala tehsil of Faisalabad district, some 130 km from the provincial capital Lahore, were burnt down by a mob enraged over reports that two Christians had desecrated the Quran.

Following the incident, police detained over 200 Muslims but, interestingly, none of them have been convicted so far. Rather, 188 of them have been set free by the court either on want of evidence against them or on bail.

Anti-Terrorism Court Special Judge (Sahiwal) Ziaullah Khan pronounced the death sentence on Saturday against Ahsan Raja Masih and imposed a fine of Rs one million on him. He was also handed down a total of 22 years of imprisonment under various sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), and the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA).

Masih had allegedly shared "blasphemous content" on TikTok and hurt the sentiments of Muslims. A case was registered against him on the complaint of a police officer under various sections of PPC, ATA and PECA.

All Minorities Alli­a­nce chairman Akmal Bhatti said not a single conviction had been made so far against those (Muslims) accused of torching dozens of churches and houses of Christians in Jaranwala despite a passage of about a year.

"Hardly 12 Muslim accused are currently facing trial, while the rest have either been discharged from the case or freed on bail," he regretted.

The Pakistan government had made tall claims following the incident saying not a single suspect involved in burning down churches and Christian houses would be spared.

Blasphemy accusations are common in Pakistan. Under the country's blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or Islamic religious figures can be sentenced to death. Most blasphemy cases in the country are registered primarily to settle grudges between the complainant and accused parties. Minorities, including Christians and Hindus, have been frequently subjected to blasphemy allegations.

According to data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics in 2021, there are 96.47 per cent Muslims in the country, followed by 2.14 per cent Hindus, 1.27 per cent Christians, 0.09 per cent Ahmadi Muslims and 0.02 per cent others.

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Published 01 July 2024, 14:50 IST

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