Pakistani Christian man dies from blasphemy mob assault injuries

by Admin
Pakistani Christian man dies from blasphemy mob assault injuries

Police and relatives in majority-Muslim Pakistan reported Monday that a Christian man who was severely injured in a mob attack a week ago over disputed blasphemy allegations has died due to his injuries.

Nazir Masih, the 70-year-old victim, was receiving treatment for severe head injuries at a military-run hospital near the capital, Islamabad, after being rescued, along with family members, from angry protesters gathered outside his residence in the city of Sargodha on May 25. He underwent multiple surgeries but could not survive, a police official said.

The mob ransacked Masih’s house and burned down his shoe shop, claiming he had desecrated Islam’s holy book, the Quran, allegations his relatives rejected as baseless.

Social media videos from Sargodha showed Christians carrying Masih’s coffin through the street, shouting “Praise to Jesus” and “Jesus is great.” The coffin was covered in black fabric and had a small crucifix on it.

Christian community leaders lamented the latest mob lynching and urged the Pakistani government to ensure the protection of religious minorities and to punish those responsible for inciting mob violence in the name of religion over controversial blasphemy charges.

“Yet again, hate has brought us to the place where we must ask questions,” Bishop Asad Marshall, the president of the Church of Pakistan, said in a statement posted on X Monday.

“The question is when will those who make a change and those who pursue justice seek truth and cry for a more just and fair world? When will those lives rise up for the sake of Pakistan’s own?” Marshall asked. ‘’We lift our voices in lament, regret, solidarity, and for an honest plea for justice.”

Police have arrested dozens of suspects in connection with the mob attack under Pakistan’s anti-terrorism law. They had also launched an investigation into the blasphemy charges against Masih.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in Pakistan, and mere allegations have led to mobs lynching dozens of suspects — even some in police custody. Insulting the Quran or Islamic beliefs is punishable by death under the country’s blasphemy laws, though no one has ever been executed.

The Sargodha incident revived memories of one of the worst attacks on Christians in August 2023 in Jaranwala, another city in the central Punjab province, the country’s most populous.

That attack involved thousands of Muslim protesters attacking a Christian settlement and burning 21 churches as well as damaging more than 90 properties over allegations two Christian brothers had desecrated the Quran.

The violence prompted several Christian families to flee their homes. A subsequent police crackdown arrested scores of people, including the Christians accused of blasphemy.

Critics have long called for reforming the blasphemy laws, saying they are often misused to settle personal scores. Hundreds of suspects, mostly Muslims, are languishing in jails in Pakistan because external pressures deter judges from moving their trials forward.

“While the majority of those imprisoned for blasphemy were Muslim, religious minorities were disproportionately affected,” the U.S. State Department noted in its recent annual report on human rights practices in Pakistan.

The report noted that Pakistani courts often failed to adhere to basic evidentiary standards in blasphemy cases. The U.S. report attributed the lack of adherence “to fear of retaliation from religious groups if they acquitted blasphemy defendants, and most convicted persons spent years in jail before higher courts eventually overturned their convictions or ordered their release.”

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