In Pakistan’s Punjab province, as many as 106 people have been charged for lynching and murdering a Christian couple inside a brick kiln, after accusing both husband and wife of blasphemy. The country’s anti-terrorism court, said that three Muslim clerics were involved in the heinous attack, as they persistently delivered provocative speeches against Shahzad Masih and his pregnant wife Shama, while waiting for the mob count to increase, only minutes before the couple was killed. According to investigating officers, 32 people who allegedly participated in the lynching and ensuing murder are still at large.
Before their murder, radical neighbors from Shahzad and Shama’s village reportedly insisted that they convert to Islam so they could be forgiven for their apparent crime. Accusations of the couple having desecrated the Koran surfaced after Shama, who along with her husband worked at a local brick kiln, was seen burning some belongings of her recently deceased father-in-law. When the owner of the brick kiln saw Shama throwing away some pages in the fire, he alleged that the pages belonged to a Koran and detained the duo. The owner then demanded money that the couple owed him from before and refused to let them go even after they had paid.
Meanwhile, the local mosque baselessly confirmed that the couple had desecrated the Koran, and that is when a fearsome mob barged into the room where the Masihs were detained and decided to beat them with bricks and shovels, before setting them on fire. Shahzad and Shama, who were residents of a small village, called Kot Radha Kishan, 40 miles southwest of Pakistan’s capital city Lahore, were already parents to three young children.
After the couple’s murder in November 2014, Christians and Muslims in Lahore organized a peaceful joint protest. The protestors went on to meet with the governor of Punjab and demand justice for the shocking crime that had taken place in broad daylight.
Pakistan’s official religion happens to be Islam, with approximately 97 percent of its population identifying as Muslims. The country also chooses to abide by the Sharia Law, which imposes stringent punishments for the smallest of offences. For blasphemers who dare to desecrate the Koran or insult Prophet Mohammad, death is often deemed the best fitting penalty.
These blasphemy laws are believed to be frequently misused by those who wish to settle personal scores or persecute religious minorities. According to government figures, only 3 percent of Pakistan’s population constitutes non-Muslims but as much as 14 percent of all blasphemy cases have been levied against them. While those accused of blasphemy are often murdered, those who have been trying to do away with the existing blasphemy laws are also targeted with violence from time to time.
Photo Credits: Direct Matin