Some young members of Pakistan’s Christian minority have suffered “torture and sexual abuse” at the hands of law enforcement officials looking into blasphemy claims against the victims, reportedly allege human rights groups.
Muslim extremists in Pakistan often hide behind the Muslim-majority country’s strict anti-blasphemy laws to target Christians and other religious minorities with violence.
Individuals found guilty of insulting Allah, Islam, or religious leaders can face life in prison or death.
Deutsche Welle (DW) reports:
On Friday, Sajid Masih, a 24-year-old blasphemy suspect, leapt from the fourth floor of the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Punjab headquarters in Lahore and severely injured himself. In a video statement, Sajid alleged that he jumped because the FIA officials tortured him and ordered him to “sexually assault” Patras Masih, his cousin and the main accused in an online blasphemy case.
“They asked me to abuse myself, but I refused to do so. Later, they asked me to sexually assault my cousin, but I remained silent and jumped from the building,” the Sajid reportedly said.
In response, Gen. Bashir Ahmed Memon, the FIA chief, has allegedly ordered an official investigation.
Law enforcement recently arrested Patras, a young resident of Lahore, on blasphemy allegations, specifically for posting an alleged “blasphemous photo” on Facebook on January 16.
The victim claims his phone reappeared days after he lost it, containing the blasphemous content.
Although some human rights groups have identified Patras as a teenager, DW notes that he is 21 years old.
Around mid-February, Breitbart News, citing the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), reported that a mob of an estimated 3,000 Islamic extremists called for the beheading the young Christian over the blasphemy allegations, a repeated occurrence in Pakistan.
While Pakistan has yet to execute anyone convicted of blasphemy, many sentenced blasphemers remain on death row, hundreds await trial, and extremists often take matters into their own hands, committing atrocities against the accused.
Pakistan has recently begun to use alleged blasphemous content on social media accounts as evidence against religious minorities, particularly young people.
The blasphemy allegations against Patras are being investigated by FIA’s cyber crime unit, which had brought in Sajid Masih for interrogations on Friday … Many Christian residents of the Shahdara town in Lahore are fleeing the area due to the latest blasphemy controversy. Islamic extremists, and in some cases common Muslims, have set Christians’ houses on fire or lynched alleged blasphemers even before the intervention of authorities.
Protesters “came with petrol bombs, bricks and sticks and threatened to burn down our houses,” Pervaiz Akhter Naz, Patras’s maternal grandfather, told DW.
“Mohammad Siddiqui, a Muslim resident of our area, filed a police report accusing Patras and some others of posting blasphemous content on Facebook. As soon as this news became public, hundreds of people gathered outside my daughter’s house,” added Naz.