PAKISTAN: Elderly Christian Critically Wounded after False Blasphemy Charge

28 May 2024

Source: Morning Star News

An elderly Christian has been fighting for his life in hospital after a Muslim mob attempted to kill him due to a neighbour falsely accusing him of burning pages of the Koran, his family said.

Sources report that area Muslims were jealous of the success of the shoe factory of Nazeer Gill and his son Sultan Gill, pressuring them to give up their businesses. According to sources, the Muslims had been looking for an opportunity to attack Nazeer Gill’s family after they refused to surrender to their demands.

On Saturday 25 May, Nazeer Gill had burned some wastepaper and gone inside his home in Punjab Province when someone threw a copy of the Koran into the fire, burning the Muslim holy book, said his nephew, Irfan Gill.

“We came to know about the incident around 8am when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers urging people to gather on the scene,” he reported. “Within minutes, a mob assembled outside my uncle’s home and stormed inside.”

Seventy-four-year-old Nazeer Gill was forced out to the street where he was beaten with bricks, stones and sticks. Protesters ransacked the house and burned the shoe factory.

“The police couldn’t stop the mob from torturing my uncle and damaging the property, but they did save the lives of my cousin and his family by spiriting them away from the area,” he said. The mob tried their best to lynch his uncle and attempted to damage the ambulance that police summoned to evacuate him.

Nazeer Gill was put on a ventilator in a hospital, where his condition was said to be critical. No visitors are permitted at present.

Most Christian residents fled their houses when they saw the mobs gathering and raising slogans associated with an extremist Islamist political party. Some sought refuge in the nearby churches while others left after locking their homes, fearing for the safety of their families.

Several police officers were injured as they dispersed the mob. Punjab Police Inspector General Dr Usman Anwar and Punjab Home Secretary Noorul Amin Mengal also reached the area later in the day to investigate.

Anwar said in a press statement that police arrested 15 Muslims involved in the violence and were working to identify other perpetrators. He said 2,000 police personnel were deployed to the area to restore order and urged Christians who had fled their homes to return, assuring them of their safety.

Punjab Home Secretary Mengal said violence against anyone under religious pretexts would not be tolerated. He added that action would be taken against suspects accused following an investigation.

At the same time, police have registered a case against Nazeer Gill under sections 295-A and 295-B of the blasphemy laws and Section 9 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) to placate furious Muslims. Section 295-A calls for imprisonment of up to 10 years for deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings; Section 295-B calls for life imprisonment for anyone accused of wilfully defiling or desecrating the Koran; Section 9 of ATA prescribes punishment of up to five of prison for instigating sectarian hatred.

National Council of the Churches in Pakistan (NCCP) President Bishop Azad Marshall said in a press statement that the distressing incident was reminiscent of the attack on Christians in Jaranwala in August of last year. The senior church leader called for a comprehensive and impartial investigation as per the directives of the Supreme Court.

Minorities Alliance Pakistan Chairman Akmal Bhatti said that the mob violence in Sargodha would not have happened had the government sternly dealt with the perpetrators of the Jaranwala attacks.

He added that if the government was serious about protecting religious minorities, then it should first ensure that the blasphemy laws are not misused and that those who incite violence are made an example for others.

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    Pray for them

    Pray that God would provide healing and comfort to Nazeer in his long road to recovery.

    Ask God to comfort the many Christians who fled, so that they would look to Him for provision and comfort at this time.

    Pray that God would reveal Himself to Pakistani Muslims, that He would convict their hearts and they would come to see their need for Christ as their Saviour.

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