Two Christian teenagers, one of whom is a minor, were arrested on accusations of blasphemy in the Qurban Lines area of Lahore, Pakistan on 18 May.
Adil Babar, 18, and his neighbour Simon Nadeem, whose reported age varies from 12 to 15 according to different sources, were charged with insulting the Prophet Mohammed under Section 295-C of the Pakistani Penal Code after police constable Zahid Sohail filed a complaint claiming that he heard the two teenagers do so whilst playing in the street.
Adil Babar’s father Babar Sandhu Masih has disputed this account, claiming that he woke to find Constable Sohail fighting with Mr Nadeem whilst his son tried to intervene. The constable was unable to provide evidence of any insult when questioned by neighbourhood elders, however later that day local police arrested the two teenagers on Constable Sohail’s complaint.
One source reported that neither of the teenagers have had access to a lawyer yet. CSW sources have also reported that approximately 50 Christian families reside in the Qurban Lines area, and most of these families fled the area for fear of violence after the accusation was made.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws criminalise anyone who insults Islam, including by outraging religious feeling, which carries the death penalty or life imprisonment. These laws are poorly defined and require low standards for evidence. As a result, they are often used as a weapon of revenge against both Muslims and non-Muslims to settle personal scores or to resolve disputes over money, property or business.
On 6 May a local cleric in the city of Mardan, Khyber Pakthunkhwa Province was killed by a mob after he was accused of making a blasphemous reference during a political rally of former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: ‘CSW is concerned at the arrest of these two individuals, particularly as one of them is a minor, under Pakistan’s controversial and unjust blasphemy laws. Once again, these laws appear to have been used to settle a personal score, and the accusation and arrest of these two teenagers could have lasting consequences on their lives and those of their families and community. We call for their immediate and unconditional release, and for all those imprisoned or detained on similar charges, and we reiterate that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are wholly incompatible with the right to freedom of religion or belief and therefore must be reviewed urgently, with a view to their full repeal in the future.’