In November 2014, a mob of over 100 Muslims in Pakistan beat and burned alive a pregnant Christian woman and her young husband following accusations that the couple had desecrated the Quran.
Two years later, the Christian Post reports that no one accused of participating has had a day in court, nor have the couple’s children received the government funding promised.
Shahzad Masih and Shama Bibi were burned to death in a brick kiln after receiving a savage beating from their neighbors in the town of Kot Radhakishan, Punjab, following accusations of having burnt pages of the Quran. Shama Bibi reportedly did burn some papers in her home, but authorities never confirmed that any of the papers — believed to be old receipts and other useless documents — were religious or sensitive in nature.
The mob reportedly chanted, “Allahu akbar” and “kill the infidel Christians” while beating the couple and forcing their bodies into a kiln. Had the mob not killed them, the government may have punished them if found guilty; blasphemy in the form of willful desecration of the Quran is punishable by life imprisonment, while a judge may prescribe the death penalty for blasphemy targeting Muhammad specifically.
The couple had three children — Suleman, Sonia, and Poonam — and worked at the kiln in which they were burned. The Christian Post alleges that witnesses have accused the kiln’s owner, Yousaf Gujjar, of fabricating the claims in order to have them killed, as they were indebted to him for sums that no amount of work throughout a lifetime could repay.
The Post notes that Gujjar is one of three people arrested for participating in the mob who was set free, the other two being individuals with little ties to the community who the government could not prove had a role in the deaths. Another 106 people remain behind bars over the incident, but the government has not progressed in advancing their cases into a courtroom. There is also no record of any of them pleading guilty and seeking a plea bargain.
The couple’s children, meanwhile, live on charity, as Islamabad has refused to provide them the 5 million rupees ($47,785) awarded to them over the incident until they turn 18. The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) has stepped up and provided for the family, the three children and their grandparents.
The group also monitors crimes against Christians in Pakistan and has kept a long list of incidents of abuse, torture, and persecution at the hands of both Pakistani citizens and the state. In such an incident earlier this month, for example, the BPCA shed light on a case in which Pakistani police tortured a 9-year-old Christian boy after rumors swirled that he had burnt pages of the Quran. The boy and his mother were arrested based on the rumors of neighbors; the BPCA notes that, as Pakistan adheres to Islamic Sharia law, the testimony of Muslim witnesses weighs more in the eyes of police and the court system than non-Muslims.
In another incident earlier this year, a Christian family was forced into hiding, with two women caught and arrested, after rumors surfaced in Sara-e-Alamghir that a Christian man posted an “un-Islamic poem” on the application WhatsApp. The poem allegedly disparaged Muhammad, which made the crime more severe than if it had more generally criticized Islam.
While individual cases of persecution of Christians by Muslim neighbors are more common in Pakistan, organized terrorist attacks also occur. In March, a Muslim suicide bomber targeted an Easter party at a park in Lahore, Pakistan, killing 72 people, mostly women and children, and injuring hundreds.