Lahore (Agenza FIdes) – 17-year-old Pakistani Christian teen arrested for blasphemy on social media and arrested yesterday in Lahore. As Fides learns, the complaint, based on Article 295-c of the Pakistani Penal Code (one of the articles of the so-called “blasphemy law”), was registered on February 19, 2018 at the police station of Shahdara, a suburb in the north of Lahore. When the case exploded, about three thousand activists and militants had blocked the streets, demanding the arrest and the public hanging of the accused.
According to the complaint, Patras Masih, a resident of Shahdara and a local bank employee, managed a group on the social network Facebook, where he had loaded blasphemous contents, which hurt the religious feelings of Muslims. Patras Masih defends himself by saying that some days before he had lost his cell phone and that someone else published those contents considered blasphemous.
Many Christian families have fled the area fearing for their lives, the reports said. Masih lives in Dhir, a village on the outskirts of Shahdara. Local media quoted Saleem Iqbal, a Pakistani Christian rights activist, as saying that there have been rumours circulating that Masih shared a blasphemous image from his Facebook account.
A report about the incident on a website called ‘Christians in Pakistan’, that has a tagline that reads ‘Voice of Pakistani Christians’, said – “Patras Masih lost his cell phone a few days earlier and someone post blasphemous content on his Facebook account.” We could not independently verify this claim.
As reported to Fides, the man managed to save himself from a lynching and fled just before an angry mob broke into his house. The protesters then moved to the center of the neighbourhood where they organised a sit-in for a few hours, protesting under the leadership of the leaders of the group “Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan” (TLP) who denounced the blasphemy on social media. When the police tried to calm the spirits, the young man turned himself in and an official complaint (First Information Report) was registered against him. At that point the demonstrators dispersed peacefully.
Yesterday there were hours of tension: the Christian residents of the area were frightened because some extremists threatened to attack and set fire to Christian homes, but the police kept the situation under control and patrolled the neighbourhood.
Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a Christian lawyer and human rights defender known to Agenzia Fides: “The accusation of blasphemy is always a very sensitive issue in Pakistan and the accused become an easy target for extremists, who incite the crowds, especially if the defendants are not Muslims, an angry mob can lynch any accused before their alleged responsibilities are ascertained. These blasphemy laws should be repealed in order to protect the rule of law in Pakistan”. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 20/2/2018)