By Jawad Mazhar, BosNewsLife Special Correspondent reporting from Pakistan
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A Christian man has been languishing for over three years in a Pakistan jail on charges of “blasphemy against Islam” and his family has expressed concerns over his health, BosNewsLife has established.
Qamar David, a 50-year-old married father with four children, was arrested in 2006 for allegedly sending blasphemous messages against Islam, charges he strongly denies, his defense team told BosNewsLife.
Khalid Gill, a regional leader of rights group All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), said David was taken into police custody in May 2006 and eventually moved to Karachi Prison in Pakistan’s Punjab province. He said his family was not allowed to see him for two years.
Gill linked the controversial case to a business dispute with Muslims. Rights groups say David is among several innocent Christians who have been detained across Pakistan, where blasphemy legislation has often been misused to settle personal grievances.
“Qamar David had gone to Karachi to run his business with his Muslim friends,” Gill said. However, “Muslim friends harbored hostility against him in business matters and eventually expressed their anger by implicating the innocent David in two fabricated cases of blasphemy,” he claimed.
“BLASPHEMY AGAINST ISLAM”
He said David was accused of “blasphemy against Islam and Prophet Muhammad” under Article 295-C and 295-A of Pakistan’s Penal Code. Gill explained that both cases were registered in two different police stations by two Muslim complainants, identified as Khursheed Ahmed and Hafiz Ahmed Hamid, whose father is an influential Muslim cleric.
As the legal wrangling continues, David has faced “appalling” prison circumstances, according to rights investigators and family members.
Gill said a defense team is now trying to get David released on bail in time for Christmas to meet his wife and four sons.
Yet, coming home will not be without difficulties: David is from Youhanabad, one of the largest Christian slums of provincial metropolis Lahore, in Punjab province. Christians often live in impoverished circumstances in Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim nation.
There is international pressure on Pakistan to improve Christian rights and overturn Blasphemy legislation. Several Christians are known to be in hiding, fearing arrest for blasphemy and allegedly desecrating the Koran, viewed as a holy book by Muslims.
They include at least two young Christians, including Ashir Javed of village Faqir Wali near the city of Wazirabad in Punjab province. In a letter, Ashir Javed told BosNewsLife he was forced to flee his home.
Earlier another young Christian man A young Christian man Jehanzaib Asher, 22, was reportedly threatened by militants while working in a barber shop in Wana, South Waziristan – a Taliban stronghold.
There has been concern among Christian rights groups that these incidents will increase amid growing influence of Islamic militants in the country. (With additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos)