Christian Couple Beaten, Burned Alive In A Kiln

Sameera Ehteram
In yet another case of death in the name of blasphemy, a young Christian couple was beaten and then burned to death by a mob in a small Pakistani village.

A husband and wife died in a barbaric attack in Pakistan, accused of blasphemy and burned to death in a kiln.

Shahzad Masih and his wife Shama were accused of desecrating the Muslim holy book Quran.

A local police officer described the incident to Al Jazeera, saying: "There were a lot of people gathered there, from many of the surrounding villages as well."

According to him, the police tried interfering but were outnumbered by the angry mob that first beat the couple up and then dragged them to a nearby brick kiln, where they were burned.

According to Nadeem Anthony, an investigator with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the attack on the couple was initiated by the local brick kiln owner over a monetary dispute.

Shama, he said, had burned some paper with Arabic writing on it worn as a taveez [a charm or amulet], and not verses of the Quran.

Sad as the incident may be, it is not the first one in Pakistan. It is unlikely to be the last as well.

Also An Interesting Read: This Has To Be The Most Absurd Blasphemy Charge Ever

Blasphemy law was first introduced in 1860 by the British government to protect religious feelings. Its section 295 provided protection to worship places of all classes of religions living in the subcontinent, not discriminating between any class or religion.

This law was amended further under Pakistan’s military dictator and religious hardliner General Zia-ul-Haq, and in 1982, under section 295-B of Pakistan’s Penal Code, defiling the Holy Qur’an was added to it through Presidential Ordinance 1.

“Defiling the copy of Holy Qur’an: Whoever willfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Qur’an or of an extract there from or uses it in any derogatory manner for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life,” it said.

In 1986, another clause, 295-C, was added by Gen. Haq. It included:

  1. Derogatory remarks either written or spoken, or by any imputation innuendo, or insinuation against the Holy Prophet will be considered blasphemy,
  2. Blasphemy will be punishable by death, and
  3. Only a Muslim judge may hear a blasphemy case.

Watch: We are Scared, We are Terrified: Religious Minorities of Pakistan

More than three decades later the country’s blasphemy law has claimed numerous lives – most of them innocent accused under a law that not many can challenge. Those who do, face a fate similar to the victims of the law.

What’s more, more often than not it is the common people turned in to a self righteous mob that takes justice in to their hands.

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If the alleged blasphemers make it to the police or the court, they hardly have a chance of getting out of it alive.

"This vicious mob killing is just the latest manifestation of the threat of vigilante violence which anyone can face in Pakistan after a blasphemy accusation – although religious minorities are disproportionately vulnerable," said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s deputy Asia-Pacific director.

According to a report by the Centre for Research and Security Studies, more than 62 people have been extrajudicially killed in relation to blasphemy cases since 1990. However, this is the number for cases recorded. Many more go unreported and unnoticed.

Attacks on non-Muslim minorities, which include Christians, Hindus and Sikhs, as well as a small number of other faiths, are common in Pakistan.

Just last year, there were 39 blasphemy cases registered against a total of 359 people, according to the HRCP. Seventeen people are currently on death row in cases related to blasphemy, with a further 19 serving life sentences.

Is there a way out? Not in the foreseeable future.