Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Pakistani Christian Couple Beaten To Death And Burned For Desecrating Quran

Only in Pakistan would a Christian couple accused of desecrating a Quran be beaten to death and then hurled into a kiln and burned. And the tragic part is- who knows if the couple were actually guilty or not. It could have been any number of things, including the fact that they were Christian, or perhaps they had a falling out with one of their accusers. Accusations of blasphemy are often levied against people who are involved in some alleged dispute, and though Pakistan still has draconian blasphemy laws that will earn you the death sentence, mob justice usually takes care of the accused before the courts can.

The victims were only identified by their first names, Shama and Shehzad, and were a married couple.
Pakistan's brick kiln workers are often subject to harsh practices, with a study by the Bonded Labour Liberation Front Pakistan estimating that 4.5 million are indentured labourers.
Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has constituted a three-member committee to fast track the investigation of the killings and ordered police to beef up security at Christian neighbourhoods in the province, an official from his media office told AFP.
Minorities are often targets, like Aasia Bibi, a Christian who was convicted of blasphemy, and then sentenced to death in November 2010.  She was accused by a Muslim woman after the two argued.

And 70-year-old schizophrenic Mohammad Asghar, a British/Pakistani man, has also been languishing in jail since 2010 for blasphemy. He was accused, after a dispute with a tenant, of writing that he was the Prophet Mohammad. No-one bothered to take into consideration his mental status. Asghar was then shot in the back by a vigilante prison guard in September, though he survived.

There are some in Pakistan who believe that the blasphemy law needs to go the way of the dinosaurs, but few have the courage to lobby for change because they could wind up dead.  That's what happened to Salmaan Taseer in 2011. The politician and businessman, who was governor of Punjab at the time, was murdered by Mumtaz Qadri, one of his bodyguards, because Taseer was very vocal about his opposition to the blasphemy law. Taseer was also asking for a pardon for Aasia Bibi. He was shot 27 times with a sub-machine gun. And who was considered the hero?  Qadri. He even got a mosque named after him. In a middle-class neighbourhood, to boot.

It's heartening, though, to read the comments on the Dawn article I sourced this from. Most are appalled by what happened to the Christian couple.

And this editorial from March 29, 2014, was reposted on Dawn:

Editorial: Death for blasphemy

The reality of Pakistan today is that mere accusation of this crime, howsoever unsubstantiated, instantly imperils the life of the individual concerned, and that threat persists not only throughout his incarceration, but even after acquittal.

Minorities are particularly impacted by the blasphemy law. Firstly, they are disproportionately targeted as compared to their actual representation in the population.

Secondly, when one of them is accused, the entire community is made to suffer, as illustrated by the mob violence in Joseph Colony, Gojra, etc or in lesser known cases where communities have been intimidated into moving en masse out of the locality. In fact, the desire to grab land or settle personal scores often underlies blasphemy allegations. That is all the more reason the law needs to be revisited.

Good luck with that.  Unfortunately, Pakistan is getting more and more conservative, and I can't imagine reform happening any time soon.

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