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Pakistan Sentences a Young Christian Man to Death by Hanging for Alleged Blasphemy as a Minor


Jordan Sekulow

November 22, 2022

5 min read

Persecuted Church



Today, a trial court in Pakistan sentenced a young Christian man to execution by hanging over a false allegation of blasphemy against him (a MINOR at the time of the alleged offense).

Our Pakistani affiliate, the Organization for Legal Aid (OLA), is representing Shahzad Masih, the young Christian man, who was a 16-year-old minor when he was arrested and charged under the country’s infamous blasphemy law, section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code. Section 295-C states:

Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.

However, even under this broad law and the prosecution’s version of the facts, Shahzad’s actions do not constitute blasphemy.

In July 2017, Shahzad was working at a local hospital as a janitor, when a Muslim co-worker named Ishtiaq Ahmad Jalali started a religious conversation, telling Shahzad about Muslim Prophets and asking him questions about the Christian Prophets. Shahzad responded that he did not know much about religion, but would ask his father. When Jalali told Shahzad about the Prophet Muhammad, Shahzad told Jalali that his father has a friend named Ali who makes derogatory remarks whenever he hears peoples’ names that have Muhammad in it.

Jalali became upset. He called Shahzad, his father, and his father’s friend names and left. Later that evening, Shahzad was summoned to a mobile phone shop located across the hospital where dozens of men from a Muslim sectarian group, Tehreek-e-Tahafuz-e-Islam (TTIP) were present. The group’s name literally means “movement to protect Islam.” These men were angry at Shahzad. They asked Shahzad what he said to Jalali at the hospital. Scared for his life, Shahzad told them that he had told Jalali that his father’s friend, Ali, uses derogatory words when he hears names that have Muhammad in it.

Instead of accusing Ali, the group of men took Shahzad to a nearby madrassah (an Islamic religious school) and handed him over to the police. The police then filed a blasphemy case against Shahzad.

Even though the police investigation did not find any evidence of blasphemy in Shahzad’s conversation, the prosecution still brought charges and the case went to trial. During the trial, all the witnesses stated that “Jalali began the religious conversation” and that Shahzad only stated that “his father has a friend named Ali, who uses derogatory remarks in the respect of [the] Holy Prophet.”

Most importantly, the Superintendent of Police (SP) who investigated the case testified in court that, “during my investigation, I did not declare Shahzad Masih guilty.” He further testified that Jalali (the accuser) belongs to a religious sectarian group (TTIP). He is the one who started the religious conversation. The SP noted that Shahzad is immature and underage and has no knowledge of his or other religions (as he was a minor at the time of the alleged incident). The SP also stated that an eyewitness did not think that Shahzad made any derogatory remarks against the Prophet.

This was the prosecution’s entire evidence. What Shahzad said does not constitute blasphemy even under the broadly written section 295-C outlined above.

Several Islamic clerics and members of the TTIP have been attending court hearings in order to threaten the judge. Today, the leader of the group, Qari Saqib Jalali, was also present in the court. And, even before the judge announced the decision, he did a photoshoot in the courthouse and left, as if he knew the decision beforehand. Five years ago, when Shahzad was arrested, the same Qari Saqib Jalali threatened on social media that if the court didn’t punish Shahzad, the TTIP members would kill him with their own hands. His threats have worked.

After over five years of court hearings, today, Judge Amir Mukhtar Gondal sentenced Shahzad to death. Before announcing the decision, the judge ordered that the courtroom and the entire courthouse compound be evacuated. He announced the decision only in front of Shahzad and the complainant.

Pakistani trial courts are known to decide blasphemy cases under pressure from angry Muslim mobs. This is exactly what happened here. Today is a dark day for Pakistan. An innocent man has been sentenced to death for something that does not even constitute a crime.

We are preparing to file an appeal at the Lahore High Court and thereafter at the Supreme Court of Pakistan if necessary to defend this innocent Christian man. Today’s decision is outrageous and we at the ACLJ will not stop until Shahzad receives justice.

We request prayer for Shahzad, his family, and for wisdom for our teams in Pakistan and the U.S. who will be working on preparing the appeal and planning the next steps at the international level. We will not only be defending Shahzad in court on appeal, but our international legal team will be working at the U.N. and beyond to secure his freedom. Now we need you to take action with us to save his life.

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