Babar Sandhu Masih was resting after lunch on Thursday afternoon (May 18) when he heard a commotion outside his house in the Qurban Lines neighborhood of Lahore, Pakistan.
Masih went outside to find his neighbor, policeman Zahid Sohail, beating his son and another Christian boy. His son Adil, 18, and 14-year-old Simon Nadeem Masih, who lives nearby, had been engaged in light-hearted banter when Sohail accused them of committing blasphemy, he said.
“Sohail initially alleged that he was walking past the two boys when he overheard them ‘disrespecting’ prophet Muhammad and then laughing over it,” Masih said. “He started beating Simon, and when Adil tried to save him, Sohail attacked him too.”
Masih, a Catholic who paints cars at a local auto workshop, said neighbors soon gathered, and Sohail repeated his accusations.
“Both boys flatly denied Sohail’s allegation and said they had said nothing that involved a mention of the Muslim prophet,” Masih told Morning Star News. “When local elders of the neighborhood asked Sohail to substantiate his accusation, he failed to satisfy them and left.”
The father of four children, Adil being the youngest, said that Race Course police station officers raided his house later that evening and arrested Adil. They also took Simon into custody, saying that Sohail had registered a case against the two under blasphemy statutes.
“We were shocked to learn the contents of the First Information Report [FIR] in which Sohail alleged that Simon had called a puppy ‘Muhammad Ali,’ and both boys then joked about it,” Masih said.
They were charged with blaspheming Muhammad under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes, which calls for the death penalty. Muhammad Ali is a common name in Pakistan, the first name attributed to Islam’s prophet and the last to Hazrat Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law and the fourth caliph.
Masih said the allegation was “completely baseless,” as Sohail had made no mention of a puppy when he first raised the issue.
“No one in our street has dogs, and neither was there a puppy in the street when this incident took place,” he said. “Sohail cooked up a false accusation against our children after failing to convince the locals about his earlier allegation.”
Masih said that his wife was a heart patient and also has suffered two strokes.
“She doesn’t know yet that Adil has been arrested on such a serious charge, and I don’t know how long I’ll be able to withhold this news from her,” he said on Thursday (May 18). “She’ll be devastated.”
Adil left school a few years ago and was training with him to become a car painter, he said.
“I was able to meet Adil briefly on Friday [May 19], when police brought him to the court for obtaining the boys’ judicial remand,” Masih told Morning Star News. “Both boys were in a state of shock and fear and are still unable to understand why Sohail had gotten them arrested.”
At least 500 Christian families live in the Qurban Lines neighborhood, and there had been no religious tension in the area in years, he said.
“Sohail does not have a good reputation in the locality, which is why many locals did not take his allegation seriously,” Masih said. “Our Muslim neighbors have known us for years, and they know we would never indulge in anything that could hurt their religious sentiments.”
Police should have investigated the veracity of the allegation before arresting Adil and Simon, he said.
“Now we don’t know how long our children will be made to suffer in prison due to this false charge – this is sheer injustice,” Masih said…continue reading
Source: Morning Star News