Pakistani authorities arrested a 70-year-old Christian father and his family, including his three children between the ages of 8 and 14, for an alleged act of blasphemy, reports the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA).
The BPCA tracks cases of Christian persecution in the Islamic country.
The police ultimately released nearly all the family members except for the father, Mukhtar Masih, who has been accused of writing blasphemous letters containing derogatory comments towards Muhammad and the Quran.
“These charges are completely false, my father is innocent. We tried explaining this to the police but they still arrested us and they beat my elderly father and I… trying to force a confession,” 40-year-old Anjum Mukhtar, one of Masih’s sons, told BPCA.
“Some men have been chasing us for our property and were offering a very low price. They threatened to kill us if we did not leave and now this has happened,” he added. “There is never any peace for Christians in Pakistan Muslim’s hate us.”
BPCA has reportedly placed the family in a safe house.
The organization points out that the Pakistani authorities have not been able to confirm the writing in the letters matches Akhtar’s penmanship.
“It would seem that no investigation has taken place into the potential forging of the letters,” reveals the BPCA, adding:
To the horror of the family they discovered that a blasphemy allegation had been laid against Mukhtar Masih in which local Muslims alleged he had written blasphemous messages. In the usual clumsy and malicious modus operandi of Pakistani police authorities the whole family was arrested, including Mukhtar’s daughter Shaima (38 yrs) son Anjum Mukhtar (40 yrs) and his children Romilla (14 yrs), Nehmeeia (10 yrs), Shaima (8 yrs).
The father was accused of committing the act of blasphemy on January 28. BPCA notes that the family is from the Christian village of Lambanwali, located in the Gujranwala district of Pakistan’s Punjab province.
Masih is reportedly facing 10 years in prison.
“However, like in many previous cases the charges could be increased… which would increase the sentence to death by hanging,” notes BPCA.
“Another blasphemy case has been enacted under the flimsiest of evidence,” noted Wilson Chowdhry, BPCA chairman.
“A 70-year-old man and his son have been tortured for a confession yet have again resolutely defended their innocence,” he continued. “Now this elderly man Mukhtar Masih will probably die in prison or by hanging for a crime he did not commit.”
Hostility towards the Christian minority in U.S.-ally Pakistan has reportedly intensified in recent months.
Nevertheless, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, claims his country’s blasphemy laws of Pakistan are not being used to target Christians or other minorities.
In October 2016, the local government of Bahawalpur, also located in Pakistan’s Punjab province, banned Christians from gathering in houses to offer their worship or prayers.
There have also been several Christians accused of blasphemy across the country. Some Muslims have called for the execution of those Christians.
“In Pakistan, law courts are known for their manipulation of laws which are used as a tool discriminate minorities,” reported Pakistan Christian Post in October.
President Donald Trump has spoken against the persecution of Christians in Muslim-majority countries.
In an interview with CBS News’s Face the Nation last Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus acknowledged for the first time that Pakistan could be added to the list of seven Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, and Somalia — from where immigration has been temporarily halted in an effort to review and improve measures used to prevent terrorists or criminals from entering the United States.
Moreover, two top GOP lawmakers have introduced legislation to officially designate Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism.