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Mob Attacks, False Blasphemy Charges, and Murder – Detailing the Plight of Persecuted Christians in Pakistan to the UN


Shaheryar Gill

August 4, 2022

7 min read

Persecuted Church



Through our international affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), we have recently filed 13 reports with the United Nations, detailing the status of human rights in those countries.

Under the auspices of the U.N. Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a process in which the United Nations reviews the human rights record of all U.N. Member States. Each country is reviewed every three to four years. This process engages the States, the U.N., and other stakeholders, such as NGOs, that submit reports and discuss issues of concern in order to improve the situation of human rights in all countries.

As the ECLJ maintains special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, we are able to engage in this process, including at many other levels (see e.g., here, here, and here), at the U.N. throughout the year. For the current 42nd UPR session, we have submitted reports on Argentina, Benin, Czech Republic, Gabon, Ghana, Guatemala, Japan, Pakistan, Peru, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, and Zambia. The reports discuss, inter alia, religious freedom violations, life issues, abortion laws, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, blasphemy and apostasy laws, forced religious conversions, and anti-conversion laws.

One country being reviewed this session is Pakistan. While Pakistan was created to provide religious freedom to Muslims who were a minority in the Indian subcontinent, ironically Christians and other minorities in Pakistan now face discrimination and persecution at the hands of Muslims. Much of the persecution occurs, inter alia, under Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws, through forced religious conversion of young minority girls to Islam, and as a result of the widespread practice of bonded labor.

Our Pakistan report filed with the U.N. specifically addresses the growing trend of forced religious conversion of young Christian and Hindu girls and their forced marriages with Muslim men. Our report exclaims that “[e]ach year, approximately 1,000 Christian and Hindu women are forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men. This trend is growing, the federal and provincial governments have failed to take action, and ‘[t]he police are usually reluctant or fail to investigate the cases properly.’”

The report highlights the case of Mehak James, “a Christian child who disappeared from her home in September 2020, two days after randomly and inappropriately receiving over 40 calls from a 45-year-old Muslim neighbor.” Even the Supreme Court of Pakistan has refused to order police to search for Mehak or investigate the suspect. Through our affiliate office in Pakistan and the ECLJ, we continue to fight for Mehak.

Reporting other cases in our submission, we point out the discriminatory treatment minorities receive at the hands of law enforcement and even the courts. The cases involving Christian and Hindu girls do not get much attention or justice, whereas the cases involving Muslim girls receive proper attention and are resolved much quicker.

The report also addresses the troubling blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Our report specifically states:

During the previous review [in 2017], at least thirteen countries explicitly recommended that Pakistan implement measures to prevent the abuse of the blasphemy laws. Pakistan . . . has not taken any action toward any reform. In 2021 alone, fifty blasphemy cases were registered with at least five people murdered. Many false accusations of blasphemy continue to surface, mobs threaten to harm the accused, the justice system is failing to provide due process of law, and the courts continue to make unjust decisions due to increasing social pressure to wrongfully convict minority citizens.

We highlight the case of Shahzad Masih, “a young Christian man who was 17 years old when he was arrested over a false blasphemy accusation. His trial has taken almost five years and the District and Sessions Court continues to postpone the hearing for closing statements.”

The most egregious fact our report discusses is:

While in most blasphemy cases, there is at least a false allegation, in this case, the allegation does not even constitute blasphemy. All the witnesses have testified that Shahzad told a Muslim co-worker that his father’s friend passes derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad. The investigating officer stated that an eyewitness did not observe any insult against the Prophet in Shahzad’s conversation. He further testified that he did not find that Shahzad had committed any crime.

Our affiliate office in Pakistan represents Shahzad and has filed a motion to dismiss. This will give the attorneys a chance to make one more attempt to explain to the court the absurdity of the entire case before the court hears closing statements and concludes the trial.

We further reported that “[i]t is widely known that Pakistani trial courts commonly convict those accused of blasphemy due to social pressure. If convicted, Shahzad would spend another four years in jail until the High Court hears his appeal.”

The report includes several other cases that involve false allegations of blasphemy:

In April 2021, two Christians, Mariam Laal, a nurse, and Newish Arooj, a nursing student, were accused of blasphemy. They were simply following a supervisor’s orders to remove stickers, when one of them was attacked by a Muslim employee with a knife for removing a torn sticker with a verse from the Quran stuck to a cabinet.  Remarkably, after succumbing to the pressure of an enraged Islamist mob, the police arrested the nurses and not the attacker.

Our report also discusses the case of two Christian brothers, Qaiser Ayub and Amoon Ayub, who were convicted and sentenced to death by a trial court in December 2018 for allegedly posting sacrilegious content against Islam on the internet. The High Court recently upheld their conviction, disregarding the fact that the prosecution had no evidence showing that the Ayub brothers authored and uploaded the blasphemous content. Our affiliate in Pakistan represents Amoon and is preparing to file an appeal at the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The third major issue of concern our report discusses is bonded labor, a practice that is prohibited under Pakistani law but is still widespread in the country. Our affiliate office in Pakistan has represented and recused many Christians who fall prey to this unlawful practice.

Explaining how bonded labor in Pakistan works, our report stated:

Bonded laborers are forced to work for very low wages. Often the employers give small loans (unlawful under Pakistani law) to the laborers, which the employers deduct from already low wages. However, the loans are almost never paid off due to the corrupt bookkeeping practices by the employers. This problem is especially found in the Christian communities that are often poor and work for majority Muslim employers who take advantage of them.

Finally, we recommended that

[t]he Government of Pakistan must take steps to stop forced religious conversions and forced marriages of minority women. . . . Further, the Government of Pakistan must take measures to stop the abuse of blasphemy laws. It must not succumb to the pressure from the extremist members of the society . . . . At the very least, the government must amend the laws to stop their abuse [and] . . . punish those who perpetrate violence in the name of the Prophet Muhammad. Finally, the government must enforce the Bonded Labour Act to stop the scourge of bonded labor.

This is the first blog in a series of blogs we will post regarding the reports we have filed with the U.N. We will continue to write about other reports in the coming weeks.

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