Spate of False Blasphemy Charges Put Pakistani Christians at Risk

In the aftermath of the horrific assault on Christians in Jaranwala, a disturbing series of false blasphemy cases have emerged in Pakistan, casting a harsh light on the rampant abuse of blasphemy laws and the ensuing violence against minority communities. On August 25, 2023, a troubling incident unfolded in Kasur's Mochipura area, where a sanitation worker's family was falsely accused of desecrating Quranic papers while cleaning a Muslim household. Tensions escalated as Islamic clerics called for attacks on Christian homes through mosque loudspeakers. Thankfully, swift police intervention averted a potential catastrophe, ensuring the safety of the Christian community.

These events follow a grim pattern. On August 16, 2023, Jaranwala city witnessed a violent rampage by a Muslim mob, resulting in the burning of 25 churches and the destruction of 120 houses, leaving numerous Christian families homeless and terrified. This attack, triggered by the arrest of Christian brothers Raja Amir Saleem and Rocky Saleem on blasphemy charges, starkly highlights the alarming misuse of blasphemy laws. Similarly, tensions flared in Sahiwal due to blasphemous content on social media, prompting police action and the filing of a First Information Report (FIR).

Merely three days after the Jaranwala incident, another potential blasphemy crisis was narrowly averted in Sahiwal. In the village of 186/9-L, a Christian named Ehsaan Shan Masih posted a video containing blasphemous images on social media, reminiscent of the material that triggered the Jaranwala attacks. The local Dera Rahim police station acted swiftly, registering an FIR under sections 295A and B of the Pakistan Penal Code, along with provisions under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, to prevent potential violence. While Ehsaan has not been arrested yet, his relatives and neighbours have fled their homes, fearing the dire consequences witnessed in Jaranwala.

Furthermore , in Madina Town, Faisalabad, damp Quranic pages left on a shared wall sparked accusations against a Christian family, forcing some members to flee their homes out of fear of mob violence. A family dispute in Rawalpindi escalated into a blasphemy case when a family member converted to Islam and accused his nephew to claim property shares. Though the police managed to diffuse the situation, rumours persisted, continuing to threaten local Christians.

In another case, an FIR was registered on August 20, 2023, at the Garanna police station, Sargodha, against unidentified individuals who allegedly desecrated pages of the Holy Quran. Irfan Taj, a resident of Chak No. 36, Sargodha, reported that during Fajar Namaz (Early Morning Prayer) at Bilal Mosque, he discovered a polythene bag hanging on the mosque's main gate containing burnt pages of Sapara No. 2 (Quranic verses). Police have filed a case against unknown perpetrators.

We continue to receive reports about the harassment of Christians across the country. These incidents include the inscription of Quranic/Islamic wording on two churches: Central Brooks Church in Karachi and Presbyterian Church on Satyana Road, Faisalabad.

Recently, we received another report of an Islamic group protesting derogatorily against Christians in Mehboob Colony, Faisalabad, on the night of August 29. Chanting offensive slogans and labeling Christians as "Choohras" (a pejorative term often used against Christians) and infidels, the group was dispersed by timely police intervention. However, despite police assurances, Christians remain apprehensive and unwilling to return to their homes until normalcy is restored.