07/13/2019 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – A 55-year-old Christian named Saleem Masih was accused of blasphemy in Khanewal, located in Pakistan’s Punjab Province, on June 13. Sources reached by International Christian Concern (ICC) say that the accusation comes as a result of a property dispute between Saleem Masih and his sister-in-law, Ayesha, who recently converted to Islam.
Ayesha accused Saleem Masih of burning pages from the Quran and had him arrested under section 295-B of Pakistan’s Penal Code. The accusation and arrest are documented by First Information Report (FIR) # 289/19.
Ayesha was previously married to Saleem Masih’s older brother Sabir. However, Ayesha divorced Sabir and married Saleem Masih’s younger brother Irfan.
In speaking with ICC, Sabir claimed there was a long history between his family and Ayesha that has led to serious disputes and bitterness. These disputes eventually resulted in Ayesha accusing Saleem Masih of blasphemy.
According to Sabir, Ayesha falsely registered a case against him and other members of his family in March 2019. They were arrested as a result but were granted bail by the local court. The case against is still pending before the court.
Sabir said Ayesha continued to threaten his entire family following the March 2019 incident. This time, Ayesha accused Saleem Masih of stealing valuable items from her house and setting pages of the Quran on fire.
Speaking with ICC, Rashid Masih, a community leader in the neighborhood confirmed, “It is actually a matter of property dispute. The complainant is misusing the blasphemy law to settle her personal scores.”
Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws are often abused to settle personal scores or incite religious hatred. Religious minorities in Pakistan, including Christians, are disproportionality accused and punished under the blasphemy laws. Without proper reform, these laws will continue to be used as weapons in the hand of extremists against religious minorities.