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Christian teenager in lock up on blasphemy survives Muslim mob attack

Lahore: August 22, 2017. (PCP) A fourth Christian teenager has been arrested under the draconian blasphemy laws of Pakistan for allegedly burining 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.

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. Aisf was accused of stealing fom 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 stated 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 khown 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 Christin man called then 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 Muslim 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 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 and some intervention from local people of high standing. Asif was moved to the more secure cells at District Jail Gujranala and police say that he has admitted to being guilty for the crime - though it is believed by many that Asif has been coerced into a flase confession.

Asif's parents categorically deny their son could possibly burn the Quran or steal from the graveyard collection box at the tomb of Sundhay Shah which is 2kn 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 hotspot 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 Stephem 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 Mulsim man 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.


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