Blasphemy accusation against a Pakistani Christian teenager forces family to go into hiding
By Dan Wooding and Sheraz Khurram Khan, Special to ASSIST News Service, February 5, 2009

NAROWAL, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- A Pakistani Christian family has gone into hiding after a grade 9 student was accused of blasphemy by his Muslim classmate last week, ANS has learnt.

Chief Coordinator of Sharing
Life Ministry Pakistan, Sohail Johnson

The Trouble began for Naveed Aziz, 14, a resident of Tariqabad colony in Badomali village in Tehsil Narowal, located in the district of Sialkot in Punjab province, when he misplaced Christian literature belonging to his brother Shafique, a pastor of a local Church.

One of Shafique’s friends had given the literature to Naveed to give to his brother as Shafique was not at home when his friend came to see him. So Naveed, ANS has learnt, had mistakenly taken the literature to school with him and he only realized the loss of the literature when Shafique asked for it.

The Christian teenager thought he might have misplaced it at school, so he asked his classmates the next day if they had found the missing literature. It transpired that the wanted literature was in custody of one of his classmates from a hard-line Muslim background.

Naveed then received blasphemy accusation when he asked his Muslim classmate to return the literature.

Unlike several previous blasphemy cases, where emotions eclipsed reason, teachers at the government-run school tried to hush up the matter after learning that there was no blasphemous content in the literature.

The effort of the teachers to keep the situation from worsening, however, proved of no avail as the fundamentalist Muslim organizations in the area incited students of other schools and colleges to implicate Naveed in a blasphemy case.

“Blasphemers should be meted out rightful punishment,” reads banner strung across a street

The campaign to incriminate Naveed in the blasphemy case involved announcements from local mosques, demonstrations and the putting up of banners, demanding that Naveed be penalized.

Apparently, giving in under the mounting pressure of local Muslims, the Station House officer of Badomali police station, arrested the 9th grader alledgly without conducting a thorough investigation. In order to save his younger brother, Shafique turned himself into to police stating that he had lost the literature. The police allegedly then subjected the two brothers to torture.

Local Christians, the Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan and the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, have expressed their outrage over the arrest of the two Christian brothers in this blasphemy-related case.

The subsequent police high-ups’ probe into the matter established that the Christian brothers were innocent. The District Police Officer (DPO), summoned the two parties -- local Christians and Muslim leaders on Thursday, February 5, to discuss the case. The DPO brokered reconciliation between the two parties.

The Chief coordinator of the Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan, Sohail Johnson, who visited Tariqabad colony, where the family of Naveed and Shafique have been living for some 60 years, told ANS that the Christian family had fled to safety despite the fact that the reconciliation has been made. He said the family had become vulnerable to threats, attacks and conspiracies by the radical Islamists in the area.

Commenting on the abuse of Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, Sohail Johnson said that the police should act scrupulously while dealing with a blasphemy-related application.

“Instead of knuckling under mob pressure, the police should launch a thorough probe before making any arrest or lodging First Information Report (FIR),” he said, adding that he regretted that a “few people could go to police station and ruin a person’s life by accusing him of blasphemy.” He called for devising a strategy to deal with blasphemy-related accusations. He termed the law as a weapon in the hands of Muslims to “lash and persecute non-Muslims.”

The Christian Counter