By – Shamim Masih
Today April 4, 2014, a session court in Toba Tak Singh announced two further deaths sentence for Christian couple, Shafaqat Emmanuel and his wife Shagufta Kauser. Both were caught up in a blasphemy law case for apparently sending sending blasphemous text massages to a local Imam in Gojra.
Gojra is the same city in which seven people were shot dead and over 100 homes and two churches burnt to the ground, during 1st August 2009, in one of Pakistan’ most severe attacks on a Christian community. This attack also lead to the formation of the BPCA.
According to World Vision in Progress, additional session judge, Mian Amir Habib announced the death sentence for the innocent Christian couple, who were tried together, on Friday, under section 295 B & C of the notorious blasphemy laws of Pakistan.
Last year, on July 21st, 2013 Shafaqat Emmanuel who is wheelchair bound and his wife Shagafta Kauser were arrested under First Investigation Report (FIR) No. 407/13 for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages to a number of local Muslims, including the local Imam.
WVIP reported that neither the SIM card was registered with their names nor were the couple literate enough to write these texts in English. Furrakh H Saif, chief of WVIP managing the case said;
“The hypocrisy and the shallowness of our legal system stands exposed. As usual, the lower court has gone with the populist vote, which involves an Islamist stance on a sensitive blasphemy case.”
“In this situation we fear that Pastor Adnan and Asif Pervaiz could become further victims of our Pakistani extra judicial killing.”
Shamim Masih said;
“The blasphemy law will continue to bred equality and hatred in Pakistan for as long as they remain on the statute books. Local courts remain susceptible to fear of or coercion by violent extremists.”
A recent report from the United States Commission for Religious Freedom describes how Pakistan uses blasphemy laws more frequently than any other country in the world; listing 15 people on death row and 19 others serving life sentences.
In January 2014, an elderly British citizen was sentenced to death for blasphemy; though his lawyers have said the court failed to consider “overwhelming” evidence of a mental illness.
On March 27, a session court in Lahore sentenced a Christian man Sawan Masih to death by hanging. He was caught up in the controversy that triggered the riots in St Joseph’s colony in March last year.
Wilson Chowdhry Chairman of the BPCA said;
“No Christian is safe in Pakistan, moreover every Christian living in Pakistan will experience some form of discrimination and prejudice. Those caught up in a blasphemy charge will lose their worldly possessions and their families will have to stay in hiding to survive”
“This recent ruling further reinforces the need for a complete overhaul of the blasphemy laws of Pakistan. The current statutes favour extremists allowing them to use the laws as a tool for persecution and oppression, whilst those with personal vendettas are commonly using the laws to settle scores. Britain and other nations providing aid to Pakistan and other intolerant states, should place conditions on funding that lever positive changes to human rights, in order for recipients to garner future grants.”