April 10th, 2021

By Staff Reporter


FAISALABAD

Faisalabad police on April 9 booked two Christian nurses under blasphemy charges for allegedly defiling Islamic verses.

Both nurses, who were employed at the District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital Faisalabad, were arrested and sent on a 14-day judicial remand. According to the FIR lodged by the hospital’s Deputy Medical Superintendent, the women were accused of allegedly removing a holy verse pasted on a cupboard.

The FIR is lodged under section 295B of the PPC which criminalises defiling the Holy Quran and is punishable with life imprisonment. An SSP investigation is supervising the inquiry but police have declined to comment on the case as they have termed it a highly sensitive issue.

As news of the alleged blasphemy spread, an enraged mob attempted to ambush the nurses at

the hospital but they were rescued by the police and shifted to the police station. A young boy claimed that he attempted to stab one of the nurses but she somehow survived.

The families of the two nurses have gone into hiding for fear of being targeted by a mob, while Faisalabad’s Christian community say they feel unsafe following this incident and fear unrest and violence against them.

Colonial-era legislation

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and their prescribed punishments are extremely severe, and people accused of blasphemy are deprived of the right to a counsel of their choice as most lawyers refuse to take up such sensitive cases.

According to the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom, about 80 individuals are serving a life sentence or are on death row for allegedly committing blasphemy in Pakistan. As per the Punjab Prison Department data, there are over 220 inmates including three juveniles in the province who are being tried for blasphemy charges. 

Although blasphemy laws are colonial-era legislation, they were amended during the regime of former dictator General Zia-ul-Haq which increased the severity of prescribed punishments. Since then, about 2,000 people (mostly Muslims) have been charged with blasphemy under the amended law.

Most of those accused of blasphemy ironically tend to be Muslims and languish in jail for decades.

Often in the past, accusations of both Muslims and religious minorities have ended in mob violence – lynching, as in the case of Mashal Khan, or their homes set on fire, as in the case of a 2013 incident in Lahore’s Joseph Colony, in which an incensed mob had burned down hundreds of houses after a resident Christian youth was accused of committing blasphemy. The accused had eventually been acquitted of all charges by the court seven years later.

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