Second Hospital Case
Church leaders and rights activists have appealed to the government to ensure fair investigation as panic spread among Christian medical workers in Faisalabad.
The blasphemy accusations against the two women comes after Tabeeta Gill, a nurse at a Karachi hospital and a gospel singer, was slapped, beaten and locked in a room by a violent mob on Jan. 28 after a Muslim co-worker baselessly accused her of blaspheming Islam.
Police initially cleared her of denigrating Muhammad but later succumbed to pressure of an Islamist mob that converged on their station and charged her with insulting Muhammad, punishable by death under Section 295-C.
Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, the prime minister’s special representative on religious affairs, that he had taken notice of the case and would ensure a fair investigation.
“It’s true that our blasphemy laws are often misused to settle personal scores, but we are making efforts to bring legislation in this regard,” Ashrafi told Morning Star News. “The government will not allow any person to take the law into their own hands by using the religion card.”
False accusations of blaspheming Islam in Pakistan are common, often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. The highly inflammatory accusations have the potential to spark mob lynchings, vigilante murders and mass protests. Currently, 24 Christians are in prison due to blasphemy charges. They are defendants in 21 blasphemy cases at various levels of the judicial process.
The government’s failure to curb the misuse of the blasphemy laws is emboldening false accusers, rights activists and church leaders say.
A Senate Special Committee on Human Rights and the Islamabad High Court in 2018 recommended that those making false blasphemy accusations be given the same punishments as those convicted of blasphemy, but the government dismissed the recommendation. It stated that anyone registering a blasphemy case at a police station must bring two witnesses.
While punishment for blasphemy ranges from several years in prison to death in Pakistan, a person making a false accusation faces potential punishment of only six months in prison or a fine of 1,000 rupees (US$6). Successive governments have acknowledged that the blasphemy laws are blatantly misused, but little effort has been made to stop the abuses.
Rights activists say it’s unlikely that any government will move to repeal or amend the blasphemy laws due to fierce Islamist sentiments in the Muslim-majority country. They say Pakistani authorities must be urged to immediately implement effective procedural and institutional safeguards at the investigative, prosecutorial and judicial levels to prevent abuse of these laws.
The U.S. State Department on Dec. 7 re-designated Pakistan among nine other “Countries of Particular Concern” for severe violations of religious freedom. Previously Pakistan had been added to the list on Nov. 28, 2018.
Pakistan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors 2021 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
This article originally appeared on MorningStarNews.org. If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit MorningStarNews.org for a list of organizations that can orient you on how to get involved.