Kamran Chaudhry, Lahore
Updated: February 22, 2021 08:29 AM GMT
Christians protest about the misuse of Pakistan's blasphemy laws. (Photo: YouTube)
Activists are demanding the release of two Pakistani Christians recently arrested for preaching the gospel to young Muslims in Lahore.
Muslim student Haroon Ahmad filed a first information report on Feb. 13 against Haroon Masih and Salamat Masih accusing them of insulting Islam.
“We were in the Model Town park when Haroon gave me a book titled The Water of Life. Both of them deliberately started preaching the Christian religion. During this they started blasphemy in front of my three friends and other people,” Ahmad stated.
“He said that Prophet Muhammad is stray and the Bible is a protected book while the Quran is not. The accused are terrorizing the country. The organized group who published and printed this book must be arrested.”
Journalist and human rights defender Marvi Sirmed denied Ahmad’s claim.
“Haroon and Salamat told this guy that they weren't preaching to anyone and were quietly reading their own sacred book. The Muslims are getting more and more aggressive,” she tweeted.
“Punjab’s government must act sensibly. For a change, support the weaker minority community here and make every possible arrangement to prevent violence against Christians of Lahore.”
Haroon Masih has obtained provisional bail but police at Model Town police station denied knowing the whereabouts of Salamat Masih. Their hearing is scheduled for Feb. 24.
Anjum James Paul, chairperson of the Pakistan Minorities Teachers' Association, visited Model Town police station on Feb. 21.
“Article 20 of Pakistan’s constitution guarantees freedom to every citizen to profess, practice and propagate his religion. It is discrimination to stop propagation of one specific religion. We demand our right of religious freedom as equal citizens,” he said.
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in deeply conservative Pakistan where mere allegations have led to extrajudicial killings and mob violence.
Catholic groups and human rights campaigners have long sought the repeal of draconian blasphemy laws, arguing they are used to victimize religious minorities or settle personal scores
Last month Christian nurse Tabitha Nazir Gill was slapped and stripped for alleged blasphemy at a hospital in Karachi where she had worked for nine years. Gill, a gospel singer, is now living in hiding with her family.