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Christians want blasphemy law used against Muslim lawyer

Zafarullah Khan equates betrayal of Jesus Christ with graft charges against the prime minister

Christians want blasphemy law used against Muslim lawyer

A Pakistani journalist poses for a photograph with a copy of a corruption report on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif released by Supreme Court appointed officials July 12. (Photo by Aamir Qureshi/AFP)

ucanews.com reporter, Karachi
Pakistan

July 17, 2017

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Pakistani Christians have petitioned the government to book a ruling party leader on blasphemy charges for drawing an "offensive" parallel between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Jesus Christ.

The Pakistani prime minister and his family are under investigation for owning offshore properties highlighted by media through what is called the Panama Papers Leaks — of documents held by a Panama-based law firm identifying links between political and business leaders and offshore companies and accounts.

Sharif denies the charges but Supreme Court-appointed officials have already filed a 254-page report implicating the prime minister and his family.

In a news conference on July 10, Zafarullah Khan, senior counsel for the prime minister, said investigators probing the offshore assets of the ruling Sharif family have done to the prime minister what Judas Iscariot did to Jesus Christ.

Christian activists took strong exception to Khan's statement for comparing Sharif, who is facing investigations for graft, with Jesus Christ.

"This statement has hurt the sentiments of millions of Christians living in Pakistan," Akran Waqar Gill, president of the Joint Christian Action Committee, told ucanews.com.

"Had any member of the minority community drawn any parallel involving Prophet Mohammed, he or she would have been lynched to death or ended up in jail by now," Gill said.

"We along with Muslim Masihi Ittehad (Muslim-Christian Unity group) and All Pakistan Muslim League have filed a police complaint against Zafarullah under the blasphemy laws," he said.

Basharat Khokhr, a Christian rights activist, said that despite the application, the minority community stands fully opposed to the blasphemy laws.

"In principle, we want the blasphemy laws abolished, but we have reservations over its inconsistent application. There is one rule for the majority Muslim community and the other for the religious minorities," he said.

"We will take to the streets if our application against Zafarullah is not taken seriously and he is not arrested for his offensive remarks," he said.

"Our main purpose is to expose the hypocrisy of the police in particular and society in general regarding discriminatory application of blasphemy laws. No time is wasted by police if any member of the minority community is even falsely accused of blasphemy," he said.

However, Khan later said in a statement that a small group of people have tried to misuse, "for their ulterior motive," his reference to the historical background of the betrayal of Jesus.

"Although this malicious act of a very few people did not deserve to be responded to, but to put the record straight: 'I believe Hazrat Masih Alai Salam (Jesus) is a true prophet and has the divine guidance in the form of Injeel-e-Muqadas (Bible).'"

"As a Muslim, I cannot even differentiate one prophet from the other as all are holy and divine," he said.

Khan said his reference to Jesus was to indicate his betrayal and to declare the truthfulness and the greatness of Jesus and trying to find another meaning is highly unfortunate and disappointing.

In Pakistan, blasphemy against Islam, Prophet Mohammed or the Quran remains a sensitive topic and many Christians have had to pay with their lives over mere false allegations.  

Among those who were killed extra-judicially include former Punjab governor Salman Taseer and federal minority affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti after they spoke out against the misuse of blasphemy law.

Blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed carries a mandatory death sentence in Pakistan. The state has not carried out any execution for this, but a number of people accused of blasphemy have been killed, some in prison or before trials ended. Blasphemy against the Quran is punishable with life imprisonment.

More than 95 percent of Pakistan's 180 million people are Muslims. Less than 2 percent are Christians.

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