We have an election coming in America. Here in America we take religious freedom for granted. But if our election this time goes Democrat the radicals controlling the party will opt for massive change. The radicals in the Democrat Party are receiving support from the violent wing including BLM, Antifa, Anarchists and Islamists. What follows is from a report by Fox News and Hollie McKay about loss of religious freedom and what it means in our ally Pakistan.
There is a Christian factory worker awaiting execution in a Pakistani jail cell. At Lahore’s District Prison the man facing segregation far from the rest of the inmate population at Lahore’s District Prison. Earlier this month a judge convicted Asif Pervaiz, 37, of blasphemy. His sentence death. Those advocating Pervaiz’s innocence claim it was not blasphemy. He merely refuses to buckle to pressure and convert to Islam.
Pervaiz’s attorney, Saif Malook, told Fox News, “This is a tragic situation; the first case in Pakistan’s recent history where a Christian has been accused of blasphemy for refusing to embrace Islam… This man, Asif’s boss, wanted him to leave Christianity, and Asif knew he would suffer a lot by saying no. But he kept his faith.”
Pervaiz’s nightmare began in 2013. His supervisor at the garment factory where he worked allegedly pressured him to become a Muslim on multiple occasions. He refused. Khokher then went to police with allegations the Christian had sent him “blasphemous” text messages defaming the Prophet Muhammed.
Khokher denies attempts to compel his work subordinate to convert. In Pakistan, insulting the Prophet carries a mandatory sentence of capital punishment. The court vows Pervaiz will “hang by his neck until death.”
The defendant firmly dismisses the claims. His attorney further contends seven years ago, anybody could purchase a phone SIM card. There was no identification requirement. Then anybody could simply claim a text message came from a person without verifiable proof. Legislation has since become tougher. Chips now require registration in Pakistan.
Malook is preparing to appeal the death sentence. He has cautioned his client the process will mean many more years ailing behind bars.
His lawyer said, “As a person, Asif has always been a special young man – very strong, and he never wept until this month when they sentenced him to death. Mentally, he is feeling broken… I’ve told him that he must find his strength – it is a long journey ahead, that he will not survive unless he can stay strong. I wanted to lie and tell him it would be over soon, but it will be many more years of fighting.”
This is not an isolated case
Malook also boldly took on the Asia Bibi case in Pakistan. She is the poor Christian woman also with a conviction for blasphemy. Her case languished on death row for almost 10 years. She went through a long series of appeals and threats. She was finally freed in October 2018. Months later, she quietly fled her homeland to the relative safety of Canada. Protests over her acquittal erupted in the streets in Pakistan.
In cases like Pervaiz, it is not just the accused who suffers. His wife with a cancer diagnosis and four young children remain in hiding. Since his arrest seven years ago, they continue struggling to find food and any means of income. They are relying on pennies from local Christian charities for survival. Watching from behind iron bars as his family falls apart is eating away at Asif’s sanity.
Lawyer Malook said “His wife is still very sick, almost like a skeleton, and she fell down and collapsed at the prison while we met with Asif… The children were weeping for their father; they are all under threat. Everyone is scared to be around them; they are a poor family as it is. It was just so sad.”
International human rights bodies have long warned. In Pakistan, unmerited accusations of blasphemy continue to imperil lives. It is not only within the minority Christian population. As Malook observes, most of the country’s blasphemy charges are against Muslims.
Last month, Amnesty International underscored an “alarming uptick” in such charges.
It stresses that the “draconian laws that enable abuse and risk lives must be repealed… They have been used to target some of the most marginalized people in society, including children, individuals with mental disabilities, members of religious minorities, and poorer people… Though the majority of those accused are Muslim, as 98 percent of Pakistan’s population adheres to Islam, critics have argued that the laws disproportionately target minorities such as Christians and Hindus, who are falsely accused due to discrimination rather than guilt.”
History of Pakistani Law
The stringent laws regarding religion date back to 1860. They were first endowed by India’s British rulers. Broadening came about in 1927. Pakistan automatically inherited the harsh legislation. It was present when the country was born after a 1947 separation from India.
It was not until the 1980s that such offenses began sweeping through the Pakistani population. That was under the reign of General Zia ul-Haq. The General sought to further “Islamize” the laws on the books. In 1980 it became law to make disparaging remarks concerning Islamic personages. The offense carries a three-year prison term.
Two years later, a mandatory life prison term came into effect for anyone found guilty to “willful” defilement of the Koran. In 1986, a change came such that blasphemy comes with a death sentence. Blasphemy is the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about the Prophet.
The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) reports, a total of 776 Muslims, 505 Ahmedis, 229 Christians and 30 Hindus have been accused under various clauses of the blasphemy law. Those figures reflect cases brought between 1987 and 2018. The overwhelming majority face the charge of desecration of the Muslim holy text rather than full blasphemy.
Even without formal judicial proceedings, the charges come with the cost of human life. In July, a 54-year-old man with mental disabilities was shot to death in the Peshawar High Court. He was awaiting for trial on blasphemy allegations.
The 2020 report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCRIF) recommends the State Department redesignate Pakistan. It calls for making it a “country of particular concern (CPC)” given that “in 2019, religious freedom conditions continue to trend negatively.” Pakistan is a military ally of the U.S. The report came out in April.
“The systematic enforcement of blasphemy and anti-Ahmadiyya laws, and authorities’ failure to address forced conversions of religious minorities, including Hindus, Christians, and Sikhs, to Islam, severely restricts freedom of religion or belief,” according to the report.
Amending the blasphemy laws has routinely been a “top priority” for a number of Pakistan’s secular political parties seeking dominance in Islamabad. But, little headway has been made over the years. This is due in large part to the sensitivity surrounding the hot-button issue. For the likes of Pervaiz, it means falling into the field of the forgotten.
Malook says, “A Pakistani prison is not a good place when you can’t afford to pay the guards any bribes. You can’t breathe properly, and the Christians charged with blasphemy must be held separately; otherwise, they will be killed… It has been seven years in the prison for Asif already, and there will be many more as we fight his execution. We need the help of the western Christian world.”