Pakistani Christian Sentenced to Death for Saying ‘Jesus is Supreme’

Pakistan's Blasphemy law has ruined many and sometimes taken lives since the country declared independence. In a recent hearing, a Christian believer named Ashfaq Masih, a mechanic was sentenced to death for blasphemy. The man was accused of insulting Prophet Muhammad by saying, "Jesus is supreme."

A Lahore court sentenced Masih to death for blasphemy against Islam. Masih, who worked as a bike mechanic by profession, was accused of allegedly insulting the prophet about five years ago in front of a customer.

The 36-year-old mechanic was fixing Muhammad Irfan's bike at his shop. After setting up the bike, Masih asked for the payment, but the customer refused to pay and asked him to waive the charges or at least give him a discount. When Masih declined and enquired about the reason for this, the customer said that he was a religious devotee and should be exempted on religious grounds. Masih refused and told the customer that he was a Christian and believed only in Jesus, not the Muslim prophet. The dispute between the two escalated to a point where a huge crowd gathered.

The predominantly Muslim people that had gathered supported the customer and accused Masih of insulting Prophet Muhammad. Masih was adamant with his beliefs and said that "Jesus is supreme" for the Christians. After this, the police reached the spot to break up the altercation and arrested Masih. He was detained, and the officials registered a case against him.

His arrest was five years ago, in 2017, and he has been in custody since. He had lost his mother in the year 2019 and was briefly released to attend her funeral. His case was delayed for various reasons. His hearing had been rescheduled many times as the judges and witnesses kept failing to turn up. On July 4, Judge Wazir sentenced him to death for blasphemy without solid evidence.

Masih claimed that he was falsely accused by his shop's landlords, Muhammad Ashfaq and Muhammad Naveed, who owns a nearby shop. Masih says that the two had a grudge against him.

Masih's lawyer, Riaz Anjum, said, "Muhammad Ashfaq had been pressuring Masih to vacate the shop, ignoring the latter's pleas to not displace his running business" "Masih believes both Ashfaq and Naveed conspired to implicate him in a blasphemy case by using Irfan."

Anjum added, "nowhere in the recorded testimony or FIR is there a mention of the alleged blasphemous words." The claim of blasphemy was added after Muhammad Ashfaq gave his statement to the police. The lawyer also said that the prime witness Muhammad Irfan did not turn up to testify. The judge decided with only two of the five witnesses who gave contradictory statements.

Masih was the sole caretaker of his daughter and wife. His family fled to Lahore in fear after he was arrested.

In the Islamic country of Pakistan, most of the population is Muslim. There is a strict blasphemy law against those who speak against Islam or the Prophet. Even without proper evidence, those charged with blasphemy can be sentenced to death with biased court proceedings.

While Atheists, Free-Thinkers, and religious minorities are victims of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, Muslims have suffered more accusations than all others combined. As per National Commission for Justice and Peace data, 776 Muslims, 505 Ahmadis, 229 Christians, and 30 Hindus were booked for blasphemy from 1987 to 2018.

In January 2022, a 26-year-old woman was sentenced to hang simply because she had allegedly put a caricature of Prophet Muhammad on her WhatsApp status.

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