PAKISTAN – New reports highlight continuing concern over Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, six months after Asia Bibi was finally allowed to leave the country.
The reports come from sources as diverse as the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCRIF) and Humanists International.
The USCIRF reports there are still 80 people in Pakistan imprisoned on blasphemy charges. And the latest Freedom of Thought Report from Humanists International says Pakistan remains a ‘perennial offender’ in imprisoning people for blasphemy – long after the country’s Supreme Court discredited the high-profile case against Asia Bibi.
According to the Freedom of Thought report: ‘The authorities prosecuted a total of 1,170 blasphemy cases between 1987 and 2012, with scores of new cases every year. Civil society reports estimate that in 2017 alone at least 50 individuals were imprisoned on charges of blasphemy, with at least 17 facing possible death sentences.’
Release International says Zafar Bhatti, was falsely accused of blasphemy to prevent his work as a Christian journalist and put his life in jeopardy.
He was arrested seven years ago after reporting on Christian persecution. Release Partner, Lahore Evangelical Ministries, says: ‘Somebody used his mobile to send a text against the Prophet. This became a blasphemy case against him. Insulting Mohammed means anyone can kill him. His guard attempted to kill him and somebody gave him poison.’
False blasphemy charges can be devastating for the entire family: ‘My life is ruined without him,’ says Zafar’s wife Nawab Bibi. ‘When Zafar was arrested, my life became meaningless. I felt myself all alone and I thought my life is finished. He is in prison. I am really suffering.’
Release International is working to support many people like Zafar and his wife and campaign for justice – including the repeal of the blasphemy laws.
Nawab Bibi – Wife of Zafar Bhatti:
“My life is ruined without him. When Zafar was arrested seven years ago my life was meaningless. I felt myself all alone. And I thought my life is finished now. He is in prison.”
So what is Zafar’s story? Can you tell us his story?
Rev. Waseem Khokhar – Release Partner:
“Yes he told me that he was working as a journalist. He was writing stories on behalf of Christians and against persecution and somebody used his mobile to send nasty texts to someone and that text was against the prophet and this was a blasphemy case against him. Insulting Mohammad means anyone can kill him. And there was a man who was his prison guard he attempted to kill him. Somebody else gave him poison. So now Zafar said ‘when my food enters – they scan it and they lock it”
“If finances permit, I visit my husband every Thursday. I bring him some food. If I don’t manage it he always says ‘please come, even if you don’t bring any food because no one else is there to visit me.’ So I slowly make my way to the rickshaw and then I get the number 22 bus to the prison.”
“I always sing and recite verses in my head and heart. I go to the church regularly. I am receiving help from Release partners – they are giving me some money – so I can visit my husband.”
Rev. Waseem Khokhar:
“I asked Zafar how do you spend your time? Because you are all alone here, in one room you will get bored. So what do you do? And he said ‘I have been in this room for seven years and only once in 24 hours do they give us a little walk before the cell. So now he is reading the Bible, he is praying and is how he is spending his time there.”
To read more news on Christian Persecution on Missions Box, go here.
- Global News Alliance, Christian Journalist Held on Blasphemy Charges in Pakistan
- Release International, Official Website