Rights activists say that a Christian brick kiln worker was arrested in Pakistan on charges of making derogatory remarks about Prophet Mohammed. Pervaiz Masih, 40, a resident of Garrewala village of Kasur district, was arrested Sept. 2 after being accused by his Muslim contractor of committing blasphemy — a charge he denies. Shamoon Masih, brother-in-law of Pervaiz Masih, said that he was being punished for demanding his wage. "Pervaiz and one fellow Muslim had a brawl with their Muslim contractor on the issue of payment of delivery of four trolleys of sand," he told ucanews.com. "The contractor did not make the agreed payment, resulting in heated arguments between two sides," he said. Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a human rights activist and lawyer, said that police lodged a case of blasphemy against Pervaiz under Section 295-C of the criminal code, which prohibits making derogatory comments that insult the prophet. The maximum penalty for being convicted of the charge is a death sentence. Joseph Francis, national director for the Center for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, a charity that helps persecuted Christians in Pakistan, said the development is reverberating through Pervaiz’s community. "We have received reports that some Christian families have already fled the village over fears of any potential mob violence, but a heavy contingent of police has been deployed to protect the minority members," Francis said. The case is another example of the power of the country's controversial blasphemy laws. Critics have repeatedly said that the laws are misused to settle scores and personal vendettas. Minority Christians have often become the target of accusations of blasphemy. Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, national director of National Commission for Justice and Peace, the human rights body of Pakistan’s Catholic Church, strongly condemned the arrest of the brick kiln worker. "We cannot even think about disrespecting Islam, any other religion or holy figures. Respect for religions is part of our teaching. How can someone commit such an act, which carries the death penalty?" he questioned. Pevaiz Masih’s brother-in-law said the family is suffering because of the accusations. "Pervaiz is a poor man who has four children and wife with a minor disability. They are all terrified over what has happened,” Shamoon Masih said. Masih is not a surname but is used to identify a male Pakistani as a Christian.
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