LAHORE: Today April 20,2016,there was hearing of the mob killing of Shama and Shahzad in Anti-terrorism Court,Lahore in which LEAD’s legal team comprising of Sardar Mushtaq Gill, Kashif Alexander and Aric John appeared and submitted their power of attorney on behalf of the victim family of the Christian couple,who was burned alive in brick kiln after being accused of throwing Quranic pages in a garbage, and we represented them during their cross-examination by the defense lawyers.The cross-examination of four eye witnesses has been completed,in this case, about 103 people are still in jail and three have been released on bail including the brick kiln owner who was considered as prime suspect of the case.
During the hearing of cross-examination,two times harsh words were exchanged among both sides the lawyers.During break time,the arrested accused extended threats towards witnesses and same was given in the notice of the judge. During the cross-examinations,we personally felt the pain while the victim family was weeping and there were tears in their eyes.Victim family admitted before us that this is the first day when they felt that there are also lawyers who are in reality with them because of our true and with full commitment representation in court on their behalf.
Now the next date of hearing has been fixed for 28 April,2016 and the court ordered to Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to get present a TV interview of the victim family which was conducted by a local TV channel, in the court because the defense lawyers wanted to take some benefit from that TV interview.
On 4 November,2014 between 6:30 am to 8:00 am ,the Christian couple was burned alive in furnace of brick Kiln and the same day early in the morning,the announcement was made from the loud speakers of the Mosques of the nearby villages and in hundreds a charged mob of Muslims attacked at the room where the couple was made hostage by the owner of kiln and from ceiling of the room some men entered and dragged out the couple and started beating them with clubs and fractured their legs and then the mob dragged the couple towards the kiln’s furnace and burnt them alive.
The whole world is deeply shocked and scandalized over the lynching of the Christian couple which highlighted the need for urgent repeal of laws that are routinely used to persecute Christians and other minorities and to settle the personal grudges. The country’s controversial blasphemy laws, put in place in 1986 under General Zia Ul Haq régime, were in focus once again.
In the previous instances verdicts for mob attacks on Christians are infrequent.In August 2009 in Gojra , seven Christians were burned alive to death on pretext of blasphemy while more than 100 homes were looted and burned. After four year, thousands of enraged Muslims rampaged through Joseph Colony in Lahore and torched more than 100 Christian homes including two churches. Savan Masih, a Christian who was accused of blasphemy, provoked the violence,who is now in jail on death row. No-one has been convicted for setting on fire Joseph Colony.
Rimsha Masih was arrested in a false blasphemy on 16 August, 2012 in Islamabad after a Muslim cleric accused her of burning the Qur’an’s pages.Latter she was settled abroad.
In this year,a new fears for a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, on death row for blasphemy, as religious groups launched fresh calls for her hanging after the execution of Mumtaz Qadri who killed Salman Taseer,ex-governor, who voiced against misuse of blasphemy law.
Shahbaz Bhatti who was the first Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs from November 2008 until his assassination,had received numerous death threats since 2009, when he spoke in support of Pakistani Christians attacked in the 2009 Gojra riots in Punjab. These threats increased following his support for Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian sentenced to death in 2010 for blasphemy but authority failed to deliver justice for his killing.
Living in a land of 97% Muslims, the Christians in Pakistan have the fear of persecution all the time in the guise of threats, attacks, discrimination and hatred but one intimidation that hovers on them every time is the blasphemy laws. The lives of blasphemy accused,their family and their lawyers always under hanging sword during trial or in jail or even after release from the jail.
“Continued use of the blasphemy law is odious,” and “As long as such laws remain on the books, Pakistan will remain afflicted by abuse in the name of religion and no safety for religious minorities,” said Advocate Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a Human Rights Defender who is himself under constant threats.
LEAD’s team is under threats from a long time but in spite of such threats and intimidation LEAD has not stopped its services for victims of human rights violations and will not stop to voice on behalf of persecuted and against the violations of Human Rights in Pakistan particularly for victims of blasphemy law.
We at LEAD fight for justice for those who are persecuted and we ask you to stand with us for this great cause and for our mission for the assistance of persecuted and for timely needed action for them because we can do nothing without your support.Pray for justice and safety for the victim family of Shahzad and Shama who were burned alive in furnace after false allegation of blasphemy and also pray for LEAD’s team.