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Pakistan

Pakistani Christians stage hunger strike over blasphemy laws

National Christian Party chairman condemns death sentence and says police acted on false accusations

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Pakistani Christians stage hunger strike over blasphemy laws

National Christian Party members stage a hunger strike in Karachi on Sept. 9. (Photo supplied)

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Christian political activists observed a day-long hunger strike in the Pakistani port city of Karachi to condemn the abuse of blasphemy laws.

Shabbir Shafqat, chairman of the National Christian Party, led a group of his supporters to a press club where they set up the hunger strike camp on Sept. 9. 

The move came a day after a Christian man, Asif Pervaiz, was sentenced to death by hanging on charges of sending blasphemous text messages to his Muslim supervisor at a garment factory in Lahore.

Pervaiz, who has been in prison since 2013, pleaded not guilty and his lawyer intends to appeal in a high court. 

“We strongly condemn the capital punishment awarded to Asif Pervaiz, who is being punished for refusing to convert to Islam,” Shafqat told UCA News.

“This happened after he had quit his job at a hosiery factory. The death sentence is the outcome of the extreme pressure judges have to face at the hands of Islamist fanatics. 

“There was no evidence to convict Asif. No proper investigation was carried out to establish facts. Police simply acted on false accusations from the complainant. 

“The growing accusations of blasphemy are reflective of religious discrimination. We are worried about our future in Pakistan. Many are choosing to leave Pakistan.”

The National Christian Party also released a list all Christians who have been languishing in jails in Pakistan on charges of blasphemy. They are: Nadeem Samson, Patrus Masih, Hamyon Faisal, Sawan Masih, Anwer Masih, Asif Stephen, Amoon Ayoub, Zafar Masih, Shahbaz Masih, Qaiser Ayoub, Imran Ghafoor, Noman Ashgar, Ishfaq Masih, Adnan Prince, David, Sunny Mushtaq, Nobeal Masih, Saleem Masih, Nadeem James, Shafqat Emanuel, Stephen Masih Yaqoob Bashif and Shagufta Kausar.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, according to rights activists and critics, are used to settle scores and persecute religious minorities.

The UN human rights office has also raised alarm over an increase in blasphemy accusations targeting minorities.

Amnesty International has called for a repeal of the blasphemy laws, saying they enable abuse and risk lives.

“The broad, vague and coercive nature of the blasphemy laws violate the rights to freedom of religion and belief and of opinion and expression. They have been used to target some of the most marginalized people in society, including children, individuals with mental disabilities, members of religious minorities and poorer people,” it said.

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