LAHORE: Scores of men who torched an entire neighbourhood against the law walk free while one man held in captivity for uttering blasphemous utterances.
According to an international news agency, “Hundreds of men who in March set fire to the Christian area of Lahore Joseph Colony were released by the police and out of 83 men identified and arrested, 31 obtained bail before arrest.”
“In contrast Sawan Masih, a 28 year old Christian possibly wrongly accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed – the incident that provided the excuse to give a free rein to intense violence in Joseph Colony – will instead be tried in prison for blasphemy,” slamming Pakistani Justice.
The international media also censures the legal procedures adopted saying,” This is an amazing court case that for months has occupied public opinion in Pakistan, raising anger and protests of the Church, civil society, sectors of politics.”
Sawan Masih is a sanitary worker, and is said to have outraged the Muslim community by making reviling remarks about Prophet Muhammad. These accusations came from a local barber and Sawan’s friend, Shahid Imran who claimed that,” Sawan Masih had made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Muhammad; during a private conversation three days prior to these acts of ruination. “
It was on March 9, 2013 an outraged throng of about three thousand launched an extrajudicial attack at the Christian neighbourhood where Sawan lived, burning two Churches and about 200 Christian homes and causing 10 to loose their lives. In recent months, the government of Punjab pledged to recompense the Christian families and to rebuild the demolished houses, but the issue of distribution becomes an open wound.
Naeem Shakir, a Christian lawyer in Lahore says, “Most of the people who were stopped after the attack were declared innocent by the police and immediately released, for corruption or political pressure. Investigations continue and 31 of those who were arrested have been released on bail.”
In the intervening time a petition has been filed against the decision of “provisional liberty”, as ordered by the High Court of Lahore. Naeem Shakir is in the defence college of Sawan Masih who is currently tried in jail for his security and safety purposes as an extrajudicial judgement is not far from possible.
“Sawan Masih is completely innocent. The trial has begun and we will have the next hearing on September 5,” says the lawyer. Previously, the defence counsel of the blasphemy accused Sawan Masih withdrew the request for bail for threats received against Sawan Masih.
“They are two different cases: the first is based on the anti-terrorism law, the other on blasphemy. But they are a sign of bad and discriminatory functioning of the judicial system in Pakistan,” says Naeem Shakir. According to the FIR registered, “Shahid Imran heard Sawan use derogatory language towards the Prophet Muhammad. For this reason Sawan Masih is accused on the basis of Article 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code , which provides for the capital punishment.