09 January 2017
A Pakistani Christian could face 10 years in jail or even the death sentence after torn pages from a copy of the Quran were found outside his home, with his name written on them.
Babu Shahbaz Masih, 40, from the Kamahan district of Lahore, was arrested on 30 December after a Muslim resident reported him to the police.
Masih's elder brother, George, a local councilor and grocer, told news agency World Watch Monitor that the police also initially arrested Shahbaz's wife and children, telling them they had been taken into custody for their safety.
COMPLAINANT 'SOUGHT EVERY POSSIBLE WAY TO AVENGE INSULT'
George Masih, who owns the grocery shop and small piece of land adjacent to it, said his family have had a long-running dispute with the complainant, Hajji Nadeem, who allegedly 'had his eye on the land'.
A local human rights activist told World Watch Monitor: "The land is a corner plot, so it has business value. Local people say that Hajji had long had an eye on this small piece of land. Realising this as a potential danger, Masih had dedicated the land to the church. Hajji was jeered by some villagers afterwards. They laughed at his failure [to acquire the land], which incited him and so he sought every possible way to avenge this insult."
George Masih added: "Because Babu had acquired reputation as a faith healer, local Muslims also used to visit him, which was unacceptable to many local Muslims.
"Hajji started spreading word that Shahbaz had disrespectfully pulled his beard, which he wears because of the tradition of the Prophet, and thereby insulted the Prophet".
The activist said the evidence against Babu Masih was 'unconvincing', but explained: "[Although the] situation in the area has come under control, Babu's future is bleak because, even if the court acquitted him due to lack of evidence, he would never be able to return to this place for fear of his life."
PERSECUTION IN PAKISTAN:
Pakistan ranks as one of the ten most dangerous countries for Christians to practise their faith, according to the Open Doors World Watch List.
The nation's infamous blasphemy laws are often abused to settle personal scores, particularly against minorities including Christians. A pregnant woman and her husband were thrown into the kiln where they worked and burned to death after being accused of blasphemy, orphaning their four children. And the case of death row prisoner, Asia Bibi, accused of blasphemy, has attracted international concern and condemnation worldwide.
Source: World Watch Monitor