BREAKING NEWS: Pakistan Police Kill 'Blasphemy'Man; Mob Burns Christian Couple

 

By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos

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Pakistani Christians increasingly face persecution by Muslim extremists, church groups say.


LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)-- A Pakistani policeman used an axe to kill a suspect arrested on charges of blasphemy, a day after a mob murdered a Christian man and his pregnant wife for the same alleged crime, BosNewsLife learned Friday, November 7.

Tufail Haider, a 50-year-old man from the minority Shiite sect of Islam, was detained for reportedly making derogatory remarks about the companions of Prophet Mohammed and brought to the Civil Lines police station in the eastern city of Gujrat on Wednesday, November 5.

Duty officer Ali Raza said Tufail appeared "mentally imbalanced" as he "continued uttering derogatory remarks and hurled abuse at policemen." A policeman soon took an axe and killed him, investigators said.

It was the second killing over blasphemy allegations in Punjab province in two days, after Sajjad Maseeh, 27, and his pregnant wife Shama Bibi, 24, were lynched and burned in a case that sparked widespread horror.

FAMILY IN HORROR

The mob accused of burning alive the Christian couple in an industrial kiln in Punjab province wrapped the pregnant mother in cotton so she would catch fire more easily, said family members who claimed to have witnessed the attack.

Bibi, a mother of three who was four months pregnant, was wearing an outfit that initially didn't burn, said family spokesman Javed Maseeh. The mob allegedly removed her from over the kiln and wrapped her up in cotton to make sure the garments would be set alight.

By Friday some 50 people were detained in connection to the killings in Kot Radha Kishan town, about 64 kilometers (40 miles) southwest of Punjab's Lahore city, police said.

However witnesses said as many as 1,200 people were involved in the violence, after a factory manager claimed to have seen half torched Koranic pages between a heap of garbage.

COLLECTING PERSONAL BELONGINGS

Mushtaq Gill, chief advocate at Christian rights group Evangelical Association Development (LEAD), told BosNewsLife that pages of the Koran, deemed a holy book by Muslims, were apparently put there accidentally by Shama Bibi while she collected personal belongings of her recently diseased father-in-law.

The attacks have added to concern among Pakistan's Christian minority as several churches were already targeted by Islamic militants.

Church leaders say Pakistan's blasphemy legislation has created an atmosphere of hatred. Since its adoption, some 60 people, many of them Christians, were killed, according to Vatican estimates.

“Obviously, one remains speechless before such barbarous acts,” said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

“And what is worse is that religion is invoked in a specific way. A religion cannot justify such acts, such crimes. There is this ‘blasphemy law’, which poses a problem.”

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