London: (By Hannah Chowdhry and Juliet Chowdhry) Two Christian boys, one of them a minor, have been arrested and charged with blasphemy after a police officer alleged they had named a puppy Muhammed Ali and were laughing about it.
“The boys were booked under Section 295-C of the blasphemy law a statute which prohibits disrespect of the prophet Muhammed and is punishable by death.
On Friday 20th May a Judge sent the two boys to prison on judicial remand and now they face a potentially long prison sentence while they try to attain acquittal or bail.
Adil Babar (18 yrs) and neighbour Simon Masih (14 yrs) were arrested by Race Course Police in Lahore on Thursday 19th May, after an altercation led to a Muslim police officer alleging the Christians had blasphemed against Muhammed.
Police constable Zahid Sohail, accused the two Christian boys of having disrespected the Islamic prophet Muhammed, after a crowd of people intervened while he was beating the two boys.
Mr Sohail was questioned by local Muslim and Christian leaders at why he was beating the two boys so vigorously and though he claimed they had blasphemed, he could offer no description of the alleged crime.
Both boys categorically denied any use of blasphemous words or actions. The crowd seemed to believe them they live in an area where Muslims and Christians live together peacefully.
When he could not satisfy community elders that he was acting professionally, Mr Sohail left the location. Later in the evening however, police raided the village and arrested the two boys. Charges were laid against both of them under Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code which carries a death sentence. In a First Information Report (FIR) Mr Sohail claimed to have seen then naming a puppy Muhammed Ali and then sniggering about it.
Many Christian families in the area have vacated their homes and have travelled to relatives, as local mosques have begun to share the news of a blasphemy on their public address systems. There is great fear that a mob could attack the few Christians, about 500 families that live in this town. When our officers spoke to local Christians they all felt this was simply a malicious attack because the boys are Christian. None were brave enough to talk into a camera or be in images as there are still simmering tensions in the area.
The street where Constable Sohail began beating Simon.
Babar Sandhu Masih the father of Adil, said:
“My son left school some years ago and was training to be an automobile-painter.
“He is a good hard-working boy and stepped in to save Simon who was being beaten for no apparent reason.
“How could a judge send two boys to prison on such baseless accusations.
“Adil’s mother is a heart patient she has suffered two strokes.
“I still have not told her what has happened, it will affect her badly when she realises the serious charges laid against Adil.”
Mr Masih, has said that neither boy owns a dog or puppy and that none of their neighbours have one.
Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, said:
“This seems to be another false accusation based on an altercation
“The two Christian boys may have said or done something that the Police Constable took offence to and his reaction has been abysmal.
“It is a poor indictment for Pakistan that law enforcers are willing to use draconian blasphemy laws to settle petty disputes.
“Knowingly fabricating a story to impose a death sentence on a young man and teenager is appalling.
“Christians in Pakistan can never feel safe when bigots like Mr Sohail are allowed to manifest hate in such fashion.
“The Government must abrogate the blasphemy laws of Pakistan or at the least ensure that authorities enforce existing laws that protect against misuse.”
A British Asian Christian Association team will be meeting with the families of the two boys today. We hope to assist with any legal advocacy and will provide safe houses to family members if necessary. You can help us continue to support Christians by donating to our ‘Help for Blasphemy Law victims fund’. Simply (click here) for a number of payment options.
According to data collected by the Lahore-based Center for Social Justice and People’s Commission for Minorities Rights, at least 57 cases of alleged blasphemy were reported in Pakistan between 1st January and 10th May 2023; four blasphemy suspects were lynched or extrajudicially killed during the same period.
8 incidents occurring in January, 17 in February, 7 in March, 19 in April, and 6 cases in May (up to the 10th) – amounting to 57 blasphemy accused individuals.
The data identified that the highest number of blasphemy cases, 28, were reported in Punjab, followed by Sindh with 16, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with eight, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir with five.