Second Christian Faces Blasphemy Charges in Pakistan Within a Fortnight
Within a fortnight, another Christian man Zaki Masih of Sargodha, Pakistan, has been arrested on flimsy charges of blasphemy.
According to the FIR No 684/23, a complaint was filed by Muhammad Awais from Chak No. 98, Sargodha, Punjab, at the Sadder Police station in Sargodha. The complaint alleges that Zaki Masih made derogatory comments about Muslims on his Facebook page.
On July 8th, the police initiated a case against Zaki Masih under sections 298 and 295A TP. Muhammad Awais, Qari Tariq, and Ghulam Abbas requested Zaki to remove the offensive post. However, it is alleged that he not only declined, but also threatened to disseminate the post further.
The complainants argue that Zaki’s Facebook post is disrespectful and has injured their religious sentiments and beliefs. Consequently, they insist that Zaki should be prosecuted for blasphemy and held accountable. Zaki’s Facebook post has provoked outrage in the local community, resulting in calls for immediate action against him.
Zaki has denied the allegations against him. He claims the contentious post was originally shared by a Muslim man who was criticising those who adulterate basic food items like milk.
Waseem, Zaki’s brother, said he and Zaki run a grocery shop in the village, he alleges that the complainant, Awais, is a friend of some individuals with whom they had a land dispute that led to a clash five years ago. Despite reconciliation efforts by village elders, Wasim believes that the opposite party harbored a grudge and falsely implicated his brother in a blasphemy case.
Wasim further said that the complainant and his friends attempted to incite tension in the village, but their efforts were thwarted when the local mosque’s imam refused to endorse the blasphemy allegation. Despite this, Awais filed a case against Zaki, leading to a police raid on their shop and Zaki’s subsequent arrest.
The situation in the village remained tense for a few days, especially considering that a similar incident in a nearby village had caused several Christian families to flee their homes. However, the villagers remained calm, assured that they understood the case was baseless.
Tahir Naveed Choudhry, a former MPA of Punjab and the lawyer in the famous Rimsha Masih blasphemy case urged restraint and discouraged the spread of such news, especially given the recent blasphemy cases registered against two Christian men in Chak 49 and 98 in Sargodha. He made this appeal through social media.
Choudhry also called on Christian politicians and clergymen to promote peace and harmony and to guide the public not to publish posts that could hurt the feelings of the Muslim community. He requested prayers for peace, harmony, and the safety of the Christian people in these villages.
This development follows the recent arrest of a 49-year-old Christian man, Haroon Shehzad, from the village of Chack 49, near Sargodha. Shehzad was accused of blasphemy for posting a Bible passage from the first Letter of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians on Facebook, which was deemed blasphemous. The post contained only the scripture from chapter 10, verses 18-22, without any commentary.