Four years ago, we reported truly horrifying news from Pakistan.
A Christian couple, Shahzad and Shama, was burned alive by an angry Muslim mob over a false accusation of blasphemy.
Shahzad and Shama (a mother of three who was pregnant at the time with her fourth child) worked as bonded laborers at the brick kiln of Yousaf Gujjar for about thirteen years. On November 3, 2014, while cleaning the servants quarters provided by their employer, Shama found some papers that belonged to her father-in-law who had died a week earlier. She gathered the papers, some of which contained Arabic text. Shama was illiterate and did not know what the Arabic text said. She took the stack of papers and set it on fire. Burning old papers or selling them to street food vendors is a common way of disposing of papers and old books.
Shama’s Muslim neighbors saw her burning the papers and accused her of burning the Quran, as some of the papers allegedly contained Arabic text. The next day an angry mob gathered and attacked the couple.The mob beat them and then threw them in the brick kiln where they burned to death.
Around 103 people were charged with the two counts of murder. In 2016, an Anti-Terrorism Court acquitted 90, including the owner of the brick kiln. Of the remaining 13 men, 5 had been sentenced to hang and eight others were given two years in prison.
Sadly, on May 16, 2019, the Lahore High Court acquitted two of the five men sentenced to hang, confirming the death sentence of the other three.
“Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan headed a two-judge bench hearing appeals filed by Muhammad Hanif and Hafiz Ishtiaq against the ATC’s 2016 verdict. The appeals of three other convicts, Mehdi Khan, Riaz Kambo, Irfan Shakoor, were dismissed . . . by the court, which upheld their death sentences.”
This is very sad news in light of the fact that the couple was murdered in broad daylight, in front of hundreds of eye-witnesses. “The state prosecutor argued that there was solid evidence against all the convicts and requested the court to scrap the appeal.” Yet the court acquitted Hanif and Ishtiaq.
Christians continue to face not only violent persecution from angry mobs but also the tacit persecution of the Pakistani judicial system allowing those who would kill Christians to go unpunished. We will continue working to protect Christians from violence and persecution in Pakistan.
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