PAKISTAN: Police accuse brutally assaulted Christian man of blasphemy

Archbishop Joseph Arshad and Senator Tahir Khalil Sindu visiting the Sargodha police headquarters after the attack.
Archbishop Joseph Arshad and Senator Tahir Khalil Sindu visiting the Sargodha police headquarters after the attack.

Pakistan’s police have launched a blasphemy probe into a Christian man, two days after a violent mob brutally beat him and his son in Punjab Province.

Although authorities booked more than 100 men for the attempted lynching of Christian shoe factory owner Nazir Gill Masih, they also opened an official blasphemy case against him yesterday (27th May).

Extremists attacked Mr Masih and his son on Saturday morning (25th May), blaming them for burning the Qur’an after damaged pages of the Islamic holy book were found outside their house in Sargodha.

The mob also looted and set fire to Mr Masih’s home and factory, but the rest of the family managed to escape, according to information gathered by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

The police eventually intervened, and Mr Masih and his son were taken to hospital with serious injuries but are now in stable condition.

Naeem Yousaf Gill, Executive Director at the National Commission for Justice and Peace told ACN that Saturday’s incident was probably motivated by business rivalry and personal disputes, adding that “the final reasons will become clearer after an investigation”.

Speaking to ACN, Archbishop Joseph Arshad of Islamabad-Rawalpindi – who visited Sargodha on the day of the attack – said: “I was shocked and very sad to learn about the attack. This incident was inhuman.

“I went immediately to Sargodha, because it is in my diocese, and I had to be with my people, to encourage my people and my priests, and to speak to the administration to see if they are conducting a fair investigation of the incidents.”

Archbishop Arshad went on to call on Pakistan’s government to help prevent further violent incidents and to ensure the security of the country’s Christian community.

He added: “Nobody is allowed to take the law in his own hands, and this is happening in Pakistan.

“They should introduce policies to ensure that such incidents cannot happen again.”

The archbishop explained that “the situation is under control now, but the Christian population is still in fear, most of them have left to stay with other relatives”.

Professor Shadid Mobeen, Mr Masih’s nephew and a contributor to ACN’s Religious Freedom in the World Report said that “the role of the international community and media is essential to pressure Pakistan to protect its religious minorities from the extremist mindset”.