Another Christian woman abducted in Pakistan

May 23, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

Pakistan, May 19, 2016: Last Thursday (12 May), a 24-year-old Christian woman from the Bahar District in Lahore was abducted by four masked men. Marriam Mushtaq, a higher education student, was walking with her younger brother, Youhan, when the men pulled up in a car and attempted to drag her into the vehicle. Marriam resisted but was knocked unconscious. She was then pulled into the car and driven away.

As is so often the case with incidents involving Christians in Pakistan, the police did not initially register the abduction. But following a protest by Marriam’s family and local Christians, the police registered the incident and the case is now under investigation. The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), which Barnabas Fund supports, is assisting the family in their efforts to find Marriam and bring her home safely.

“You are being heard, however, in Pakistan the religious minorities are being ill-treated”

The former Governor of Punjab, Chaudhary Sarwar, last week acknowledged to an audience of Pakistanis at the Jung Forum in London the huge challenges facing religious minorities in Pakistan. Comparing their difficulties with the freedom enjoyed by minority groups in the UK, Sarwar said, “You are a minority here in the UK, yet you enjoy all rights. You are being heard, however, in Pakistan the religious minorities are being ill-treated”.

He drew attention to the murder of a Christian couple by a 600-strong mob in November 2014, as well as the Christian neighbourhood in Lahore’s Joseph Colony attacked by 3,000 Muslims in March 2013 after a young Christian man was falsely accused of blasphemy. The latter reflects a troubling trend of blasphemy accusations being the prompt for Muslim vigilantes to attack Christians.

In the latest incident, threats have been made against Christians in Chak 44, a village in Mandi Bahauddin District in the Punjab province, after the accusation that a young Christian had been watching anti-Islamic lectures on his mobile phone.

A report compiled by the United States’ Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in April 2016 recommended the addition of Pakistan to the list of “countries of particular concern” (CPC). The report states, “For years, the Pakistani government has failed to protect citizens, minority and majority alike, from sectarian and religiously-motivated violence.”

Pakistan has yet to be designated a CPC, despite the recommendation, but should that change then it would represent a significant step for Pakistan’s religious minorities. This is because it will enable the United States to more effectively press for much-needed reform, including repealing the blasphemy law which currently states that any defilement of Muhammed is a crime punishable by death.

Son of murdered politician released after four years’ captivity

In 2011, then-Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was murdered after he came out in support of Aasia Bibi, the Christian woman falsely convicted under the blasphemy law in 2010. His son, Shahbaz Taseer, was kidnapped just months later. He was released in March 2016, four years after being taken captive. He was initially held by Uzbek militants, before being passed on to the Taliban where a senior member helped coordinate his release.

Shahbaz Taseer told the BBC that he was “tortured badly” whilst in captivity and said the only source of comfort during the four years was listening to Manchester United matches on the radio. He added that, following his release, “to wake up and have breakfast with my mother, and see her face [was] the most unbelievable feeling”.

– barnanas team

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