Christian Couple Facing Blasphemy Charges Incarcerated in Pakistan
A new blasphemy case has been registered against a Christian couple, Shaukat Masih and Kiran, who reside on Millwali Street in Chaudhry Colony, Lahore. Consequently, they have been sent to jail.
The couple was charged with blasphemy and subsequently arrested on September 8. They were then remanded to jail. On September 19, they appeared in court, where Additional Session Judge Mian Shahid Javaid presided over a brief hearing. Following the hearing, the judge ordered their return to prison. The case has been scheduled for further proceedings on October 5, 2023. Kiran is detained in Central Jail, Kot Lakhpat, Lahore, while her husband, Shaukat Masih, is held in Camp Jail, Lahore.
The charges against them fall under Section 295-B of the blasphemy law, which carries severe penalties, including the possibility of a life imprisonment sentence. This section applies to those who deliberately defile, damage, desecrate, or misuse a copy of the Holy Quran or its extracts in a derogatory or unlawful manner.
Shaukat and Kiran are both illiterate and share the responsibility of caring for their three children: Sabir (12 years old), Sundas (6 years old), and Rubi (5 years old). They previously resided in a rented house but relocated to their current residence, provided by Shaukat’s employer approximately six months ago. Shaukat had accepted a job as a watchman, which came with accommodation, from a Muslim employer. Kiran also found employment as a domestic worker within the same house.
A few days prior to the incident, the employer’s sister gave Kiran some waste papers to sell, which, unbeknownst to her, contained pages from the Holy Quran. On September 7, Muhammad Taimoor, the complainant, visited their home, discovered the pages, and subsequently reported the alleged desecration to the police.
Following the incident, religious clerics used mosque announcements to incite protests among various religious groups. On September 9, 2023, enraged demonstrators gathered, demanding the couple’s execution, erroneously believing that blasphemy warranted a death penalty, despite the law stipulating life imprisonment for desecrating the Holy Quran. The situation escalated to the point where an attempted arson attack was made on a Catholic church. Fortunately, swift intervention by law enforcement prevented further escalation.
Despite the intervention efforts of government officials, the police proceeded to register a case against the Christian couple under Section 295-B, which carries the potential for life imprisonment.
The family’s economic circumstances remain dire, further compounded by their elder son, Sabir, who has a physical disability, and their two daughters, Sundas and Rubi, who have experienced mental disabilities since birth. Some reports suggest that the landlord’s sister may have aimed to prompt their departure and employed the blasphemy accusation as a pretext.
Currently, Kiran is confined to the Central Jail, Lahore, while Shaukat Masih is detained in Camp Jail, Lahore. Their children are in hiding, seeking refuge with close family relatives.