Last week, in Lahore, Pakistan, a Christian couple, Shaukat Masih, 33, and his wife Kiran, 28, were unjustly jailed on accusations of desecrating the Quran.
This baseless charge has left their three young children, aged 13, 9, and 7, without any relatives to care for them, according to a rights advocate from the Living Water Society, Nasir Jameel.
The children are currently residing with another Christian family, as Kiran’s brother refused to take custody of them due to a family dispute. Jameel had to personally step in to ensure the children’s well-being. Tragically, the 13-year-old child suffers from rickets, and the 9-year-old is mentally challenged. The absence of their parents has left them extremely distraught, making their early release a matter of urgent concern.
A petition for the release of Shaukat Masih and Kiran on bail is expected to be filed by a lawyer on Thursday, September 14, according to Jameel.
Shaukat Masih, a sanitation worker, and Kiran, who works as a domestic helper, were also responsible for taking care of a house owned by a Pakistani living abroad, where they lived on the rooftop.
The incident leading to their arrest occurred on September 8 when Muhammad Taimoor, a local resident, claimed to have witnessed pages of the Quran being thrown from the couple’s roof. He subsequently filed a First Information Report (FIR) with the police.
Taimoor approached the couple’s home, and Kiran allegedly answered the door, although she denies doing so. According to the FIR, Taimoor asked about the thrown Quranic pages, to which Kiran mentioned that her children might have accidentally done it. He insisted on checking the house, and Kiran allowed him to do so. On the rooftop, Taimoor discovered a pink bag containing Quranic pages, which he reported to the police. Consequently, the couple was taken into custody and charged with desecrating the Quran under Section 295-B of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which carries a mandatory life sentence.
However, Nasir Jameel vehemently asserts the baselessness of these allegations since the couple was not present at home during the incident. Kiran was working at a nearby house, and Masih was away at work. When Kiran was informed about the torn Quranic pages, she explained that the bag containing wastepaper had been given to her by one of her Muslim employers to sell to a scrap vendor. She had not yet found an opportunity to do so.
Upon hearing that Kiran’s children might have been playing with the bag, some Muslim residents entered the couple’s home and confronted the children. Without giving the couple a chance to explain, a physical altercation ensued, resulting in injuries to a male guest named Waseem.
When Shaukat Masih returned home, he discovered a crowd outside his home and learned about the situation. Despite their pleas of innocence and requests for forgiveness on behalf of their children, the police arrested the entire Masih family and their two guests.
Nasir Jameel, the religious rights advocate, is hopeful that the court will grant bail to the parents on compassionate grounds, considering that they were not even present at the time of the alleged incident.
An anonymous officer at the North Cantt police station acknowledged that the arrest of the couple was due to pressure to prevent potential violent protests by Muslims.
In a related development, the Supreme Court ordered the Sargodha deputy commissioner to submit a copy of an alleged agreement with the hard-line Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) aimed at monitoring blasphemy in Christian settlements. The agreement came after riots in Jaranwala on August 16, which saw church buildings, Christian homes, and businesses being destroyed following a false blasphemy accusation against two Christians.
Minority rights activist Samuel Pyara raised concerns about the agreement, likening it to Gestapo patrols and Nazi collaborators. Pyara also requested the court to seek a report from the Punjab Province government regarding compensation for victims’ families and those affected by the violence.
The Supreme Court directed Punjab police to stop harassing Christians and ordered a report from joint investigation teams probing the Jaranwala incident. The court also asked the Punjab government and the inspector general of police to submit a security plan for protecting the Christian community, which has yet to be implemented.
Additionally, the Supreme Court demanded a report from the Federal Interior Ministry on actions taken against hate speech targeting Christians on social media.
Pakistan’s ranking as the seventh most challenging place for Christians, according to Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List, shows the ongoing challenges faced by religious minorities in the country.
Original News Source: Morning Star News