A Christian family had their faces painted black, their heads shaved and a garland of shoes placed around their necks, before being paraded through a village following blasphemy accusations.

The attack was prompted when the Muslim wife of a milkman, Kaneez Asghar, asked for a plastic sheet – which had some Arabic script on it – that was being used as a floor mat at the home of Rehana Qamar and Awais Qamar in the village of Maki Chak 460 in the district of Sheikhupura, Punjab.

When Kaneez visited the home she saw the children sitting on the mat and eating food. She noticed some Hadith words written on it – “Oh my Lord, increase me in my knowledge”.

Being uneducated, Rehana and Rukhsana, who also lived at the address, could not read what was written.

Kaneez asked Rehana to give the mat to her as it had some holy words on it, but Rehana said that she bought it from Faisalabad and could only sell to her.

Kaneez offered to pay 400 rupees, while Rehana asked for 1000. After some discussion Kaneez said that she would get the money from home, and went away.

But she returned with local Muslim Nasir Sansara Bhatti, who pulled Rehana’s hairs and slapped her, taking the plastic mat and photographs of it. Nasir called upon other locals – Muhammad Asif, Muhammad Yawar and Muhammad Riaz – who started shouting that Rehana’s family should be killed as they had committed blasphemy.

Meanwhile more women and men gathered as it was announced in the local mosques through loud speakers. The people incited a mob to burn Rehana’s family alive.

At the time Rehana’s husband Awais Qamar was not in the village, as he serves Chaudhry Ghafur Chadar in the next village. Upon learning about the incident, Chaudhry said that Awais had a good character at work at work and said that he will look after Awais in all circumstances, ensuring his protection.

As Ashraf Masih, Awais brother returned home from was working in the fields, local Muslims shaved his head, painted his face black and hung a garland of shoes around his neck.

The mob paraded him through the village on the back of a donkey, while some local Muslim women painted Rehana and Rukhsana’s faces black and also pulled their hair.

As the situation deteriorated, a local pastor called on 15 police offices because the mob was growing.

Shortly after arriving at the scene, the police took the victims into custody for their own safety.

A senior police officer told Qari Ghulam Yaseen, leader of local Jama-e-Masjid Maki Chak 460 what happened, and asked him to issue a ‘fatwa’.

Qari Yaseen ordered that ‘no man should touch any women of the Christian families’ adding ‘as these women had no intention of insulting Islam, therefore, they must be forgiven for any unintentional act’.

The DPO and Qari further shared an agreement between Christians Muslims signed by to settle the issue and no police report was made in the local police station. The sheet which created issue was taken into police custody.

The Police have kept both families at safe place with the consent of the local Pastor.

CLAAS’s team has offered all its support to the families, and has also thanked the police assigned at the residence of the victims for security purposes while Nasir Saeed, Director of CLAAS-UK has condemned those who took the law into their own hands and humiliated Christians in such an extreme way.

He said: “Living in the same village with dignity and honor will be impossible for the families, and is one of the worst punishments imaginable. They will be living in hell for the rest of their lives, as they will as have lost respect in their own eyes.

“It is a very unfortunate situation for the Christians, especially those living in the villages where they are a minority, because they are looked upon as inferior to the Muslims and with hatred for being Christians. They are not allowed to touch Muslims’ utensils – as we are all aware of Aasia Bibi’s case.

“It is a pity that although the government and politicians are aware that the Blasphemy law is being widely misused, they take no action. However, there is some news that the interior ministry has planned to represent a bill in parliament to stop the ongoing misuse of the blasphemy law, but there has been no progress.”

Because of the continuous misuse of blasphemy law against them, Christians lead a fearful life and see no future for themselves or future generations in Pakistan, because of the blasphemy law. They have no hope and therefore they are looking upon their brothers and sisters in Christ, across the world, to speak for them and to pray for their safety.

Mr Saeed said that this is the time for world leaders and international institutions, especially the EU and United Nations, to look into the ongoing Christians’ persecution and ask questions of the Pakistani government, and demand Pakistan to bring its law in to the line with the international treaties it has ratified and is obliged to comply with.