Christian teenager who survived Muslim raid on Police substation and narrowly escaped lynching faces death sentence for blasphemy

The family of Asif Stephen.

A fourth Christian teenager has been arrested under the draconian blasphemy laws of Pakistan for allegedly burning a Quran. The incident mirrors the
case of Rimsha Masih a young child with a mental impairment who in in 2012 was similarly accused of burning a Quran, though later in her case police
established the Quran was burnt by a local imam desiring to implicate the Christian child (click here).

Asif Stephen (16 years) travelled to his local bazaar on 12th August to buy some cigarettes when he was accosted by a Muslim man named Muhammed Nawaz.
 Asif was accused of stealing from a donation box placed on the tomb of a Sufi saint and Mr. Nawaz started to beat him and shouted out to others
causing a mob to gather.  As the mob started beating Asif Mr. Nawaz called Imam Qari Rana Rashid Razvi (a Qari reads a Quran in a mosque with
correct melody) and told him that a Christian teenager had burnt the Quran.

Qari Rana is a former representative of the local district council and a known fundamentalist who often preaches hatred towards minorities, he arrived
at the scene within minutes and began to beat Asif publically even as the whimpering, frightened teenager begged for him to stop. Fortunately another
Christian man called the local police to save the life of Asif, however when the 15 Police officers arrived they arrested Asif and secured him within
the cells of a police sub-station at Jhamakay.

Within an hour of his detainment Qari Rana and a mob of baying Muslims calling for Asif to be lynched had gathered outside Jhamkay Police Chokey (sub
station).  The picketers became violent as their numbers swelled to in excess of 300 and they overwhelmed the local police, at which point Asif
was forcibly removed form the cell and again beaten by Qari Rana and his cohorts.

An alert was made to Ali Purr Chata Police Station and reinforcement officers were sent immediately to calm the situation. Only their prompt arrival
prevented Asif from being lynched or burnt alive. Asif was moved to the more secure cells at District Jail Gujranwala and police say that he has admitted
to being guilty for the blasphemy – though it is believed by many that Asif has been coerced into a false confession.

Asif’s parents categorically deny their son could possibly burn the Quran or steal from the graveyard collection box at the tomb of Sunday Shah, which
is 2 km from his home. They have advised BPCA officers that Asif collected waste paper, used bottles and other recyclable material which he sold on
to recycling factories.  This brought in a small income that helped to support his family. Often he would work around the tomb area because it
is a known public hot spot with high footfall and therefore has a high yield of such material.  His family alleges that Muhammad Nawaz also
collects recyclable material from the tomb area and has devised this allegation as a ploy to increase his economic margins by removing competition.
Asif’s father Stephen Masih said:

“Muja (Muhammed Nawaz) has always had a grudge against my son  and regularly tells Asif that he is the cause for his financial loss. He has often threatened Asif and told him that the tomb area is designated for him to collect recyclables as he is a Muslim and Asif is only a worthless and untouchable Christian.”

“Asif has been brutally beaten he is too young to experience such violence and hatred and he is now terrified. I know he was not involved in the burning of a Quran and believe he has been tortured into a confession. Already several attempts have been made to convert him to Islam with offers of freedom if he quits Christianity, but my son will never do that.”

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:

“This utterly reprehensible attack on a young Christian teenager fomented by a Muslim intent on ‘killing of the competition’ quite literally is a clear indication of the evil nature of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. 

“Laws are meant to regulate the behaviour of members of a society.  They should to retain peace and order and should not be devised to create alienation and conflict.  

“By refusing to abrogate or amend the draconian blasphemy laws of Pakistan the political parties there have illustrated they are complicit in or even espousing the prevailing climate of hate towards minorities.

“Britain pays £225 million per year to Pakistan from the Department for International Development (DfID) specifically for holistic educational reform. Yet their national curriculum demonizes and caricatures minorities, creating a desire for the eradication of non-Muslims and a sense of need for woeful blasphemy laws.”

“Such poor governance should be met with the immediate cessation of International aid to Pakistan from countries in the west. Foreign aid budgets from nations in the west should be given to countries that can prove they have a desire to change their socio-economic situation for their most deprived citizens and improve the lives of minorities living within them.”

BPCA is providing support to the family of Asif Stephen. Please help BPCA improve the lives of millions of Christians in Pakistan through advocacy and aid by donating

Two other Christian teenagers are also currently incarcerated for alleged blasphemy. One is Nabeel Masih arrested 18th September 2016 (click here)for
alleged blasphemous images on facebook. The other Shahzad Masih was a sweeper at a hospital where he was accused of making blasphemous remarks by colleagues
and arrested on 13th July 2017 (click here).

A Mulsim teenager of 15 severed of his right hand from the wrist to prove he did not blaspheme on 11th January 2015 (click here).

Please help BPCA improve the lives of millions of Christians in Pakistan through advocacy and aid by donating (here)

Please sign our petition calling for abrogation of Pakistan’s blasphemy law (click here)