Beleaguered blasphemy victim suffers more bail delay


Lahore: March 13, 2017. (PCP) Mukhtar Masih a deprived Christian man of 70 from a small rural village named Lumbanwalai near the city of Gujaranwala, was arrested for blasphemy on 28th January 2017, after it was alleged quite bizarrely that a derogatory letter about Islam signed with him name had been pinned to a local mosque. Mukhtar Masih's writing does not match the writing on the offending letter and he is obviously innocent, however he remains incarcerated while he awaits his blasphemy trial. Attempts were made by the family's persecutors to add the offence of insulting Muhammed, which under section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code would have carried a death sentence and is unbailable. However in Gujaranwala Court on 7th March 2017 after a successful defence by BPCA funded advocate Abdul Hameed Rana the case was dismissed by Additional Sessions Court Judge Khizer Hayat Gondal. Advocate Abdul Hameed Rana, said: "I explained to the judge that the court has no authority to impose any additional offence or to apply any further section of the law. "There is no private complainant in the case as the police are the main complainant; no private individual can now add further offences. "The judge agreed with me and set aside the complaint." Several bail hearings have been missed due to failure of police to submit evidence to the court on time or judges being absent a common malaise in Pakistan's court process. Instead of dismissing the charges the courts have extended times required for the police to submit evidence and a hearing date is now fixed for 14th March. Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said: "Mukhtar Masih like every Christian blasphemy law victim before him is innocent. His trial under blasphemy charges is a common manifestation of the hatred by a highly intolerant Muslim population in Pakistan against Christians. "The unjust and discriminatory blasphemy laws of Pakistan are a tool to settle personal vendettas, steal property and to oppress Christians and other minorities. "The continued stance by the Government of Pakistan to uphold such bias laws should make the nation an international pariah, but instead they are toasted as a great example of democracy in the Islamic world and are a recipient of foreign aid from nearly every Western nation. "I pray that one day the leaders open their eyes and realize the future they plot for Pakistan only serves to breed anarchy and that one day they espouse a more egalitarian and stable trajectory." In the meanwhile ailing 70 year old Mukhtar Masih continues to be imprisoned in isolation within a dingy cell with no access to daylight. He and his family pray for his deliverance from this latest persecution and have asked us to seek more global prayers for Mukhtar's release. So please do remember this family in your prayers.

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