Monday, December 14, 2009

Acquittal of Pakistani father and daughterMonday

Acquittal of father and daughter caught up in a discriminatory law of Pakistan

By Anjum Paul and Dan Wooding
Special to ASSIST News Service

FAISALABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Following prayers by Christians around the world, a Pakistani father and daughter have been acquitted and freed after being accused of desecrating the Qur’an, the Muslim Holy book.

Gulsher Masih was a prisoner in the Faisalabad District Jail, while his 20-year-old daughter Ashiyana, was imprisoned in the Jhang District Jail.

Both were victim of section 295-B of Pakistan Penal Code which says, “Whoever willfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Qur’an or of an extract there from or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.” Section 295-B was added by P.P.C. (amendment), ordinance 1 of 1982 during the reign of former dictator of Pakistan General Muhammad Zia ul Haq..

The father and daughter are residents of Gunah Gojra, a village in Chak Jhumra Town of Faisalabad District of Punjab, Pakistan with a 12,000 Muslim population and 13 Christian families, and had been charged with the alleged desecration of the Qur’an.

The complaint was made last year by Muhammad Farooq Alam, who alleged that Gulsher Masih and his daughter had torn the pages of the Qur’an, which they strongly denied. During the court case, when a prosecution witness admitted that he had a personal grudge against the father and son.

Mr. Khalil Tahir Sindhu. Advocate and Parliamentary Secretary of Minorities Affairs and Human Rights of the government of Punjab and a prominent Human Rights Activist was a pro bono-publico in this case.

While talking to ANS he stated that last hearing was completed on December 10, 2009 and a decision was announced today (December 14, 2009) by Mr. Raja Ghazanfer, Additional District and Sessions Judge, Faisalabad.

He said, “One of the prosecution witnesses had admitted before the court that he had a grudge against Gulsher and Ashiyana, his daughter, and that while he and others were in the mosque to offer their prayers, the father and daughter used to put on the loud speaker in the nearby church.”

Mr. Khalil Tahir Sindhu further said that he was hopeful that the case would be in his favor as this was a “baseless allegation” against the victims.

Two other Christians, Mr. James and Boota Masih, have recently been released by the Lahore High Court by the decision of Honorable Justice Najam ul Zaman and Justice Rana Zahid Mehmood who were charged in the same controversial Section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code. Mr. Khalil Tahir was also a pro bono-publico in the case.

Rev. Father Aftab James Paul, Director of Interfaith Dialogue of the Diocese of Faisalabad said that there has been a “victory of the truth” and a “message of hope and merriment not only for the Gusher’s family but for all the Pakistani Christians.” He further demanded the government of Pakistan to abolish all discriminatory laws especially section 295 B and C of the Pakistan Penal Code which many Christians believe are wrongly used by the Muslims.

ASSIST News Service (ANS) - PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609-0609 USA

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