By Kashif Nawab
The district of Sargodha is currently grappling with a concerning wave of religious tension following the registration of the third blasphemy case in a span of just two weeks. The distressing developments have not only jeopardized the lives of approximately 4,000 to 5,000 Christians but have also evoked deep concerns within the local communities.
On July 16, Muhammad Abdul Gaffar, a retired Pakistan Air Force officer and resident of Green Town, reported the discovery of a blasphemous poster affixed to his house wall. The poster contained disrespectful content targeting revered figures and included derogatory comments about the Holy Quran. Shockingly, it even expressed praise for the recent Quran-burning incident in Sweden. Consequently, an unidentified individual has been charged under the blasphemy laws, specifically Sections 295-A, 255-B, and 295-A.
The tensions and unrest among Christians have intensified due to protests by certain radical groups demanding the death penalty for the accused.
In addition, an angry mob has resorted to advocating severe punishment, chanting slogans calling for decapitation as the only acceptable form of retribution.
This deteriorating situation has led to roadblocks and urgent calls for action, including the registration of a case against the alleged perpetrator.
Fortunately, the prompt intervention of the police has helped restore calm and regain control over the situation.
However, it is crucial to acknowledge that several Christian towns in neighboring areas, accommodating an estimated population of 4,000 to 5,000 Christians, continue to grapple with fear and uncertainty. Although immediate attacks on Christians have been averted due to the intervention of law enforcement agencies, the community remains in a state of apprehension and anxiety.
Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, a former Member of Punjab Assembly and Activist of Sargodha, expressed relief over the swift response of the police.
Pointing at the rise in blasphemy accusations, he stated that, most of these cases are often driven by hatred, religious discrimination and mainly on the basis of personal vendettas.
Previously, Haroon Shahzad, a Christian man from Chak number 49, had his bail revoked after being accused of posting blasphemous content on Facebook.
Similarly, another case in the same month was registered within the Sargodha district against the Zaki Masih from Chak number 98, who was arrested under blasphemy laws for allegedly sharing blasphemous content on his social media page. His brother has been vocal in the media about the false nature of these allegations.
Human rights Defender, Joseph Jansen, condemning the events in Sargodha, articulated that the blasphemy laws have significant repercussions on minority communities in the country.
These laws notably impact the fundamental rights to life, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion enshrined in Pakistan’s constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Jansen added
Highlighting the vulnerability of poor individuals accused of blasphemy, he stated that majority of the cases are often prematurely presumed guilty without undergoing proper investigation or receiving a fair trial.
Furthermore, he also urged the government to introduce reforms that establish robust procedural and institutional safeguards at the investigative, prosecutorial, and judicial levels.
These reforms should include the requirement of substantial evidence from accusers, ensuring thorough investigations led by experienced police officials of SP levels and granting authorities the discretion to dismiss baseless accusations, he stressed
Minority Rights Activist Shireen Aslam, concerning the ongoing misuse of blasphemy laws and the escalating violence against religious minorities, stressed upon the immediate and effective measures to safeguard the rights and lives of all citizens.
Referring to the safety of the innocent Christian community in Sargodha, she commented that it’s the responsibility of the government and society as a whole to foster an environment of tolerance, respect for diversity, and the protection of human rights for every individual, irrespective of their religious beliefs.
Rev. Bishop Iftikhar Indryas, requested authorities to take serious action against the individuals who falsely accused the marginalised communities of Blasphemy in order to fix their own personal scores and benefits.
Stressing upon the need to punish false accusers, Bishop pressed upon the authorities to develop a mechanism to discourage false accusers and if one individual accusation is termed false by the authorities after thorough investigation, then that individual must get punished by the respective law of the land.