Pakistan: Illitrate Christain man from Lahore accused of Blasephemy
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS - January 8, 2017) - Once again, what appears to be another vindictive blasphemy charge has been levelled against a Christian in Pakistan. And this one is really troubling as the man, Shahbaz Babu, who has been man arrested in Kamahan village, Lahore, and charged for desecrating a Quran under section 295B of the Pakistan Penal Code, can't even write his own name.
According to the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), the incident occurred on Friday, December 30, 2016, after Haji Nadeem, a Muslim man, reported the so-called crime, resulting in Mr. Babu being detained at Nishtar Police Station. Later he was transferred to Model Town Police Station in one of Lahore's affluent districts for his protection as fears of a possible mob attack arose.
"Mr. Babu now faces a potential death sentence under one of Pakistan's notorious blasphemy laws," said a BPCA spokesperson. "The First Incident Report (FIR) produced by the Police alleges that Mr. Babu's name was found written on Quranic pages that had been liberally scattered on a street.
"No eye witnesses have come forward stating they saw Mr. Babu writing on these Quranic pages, a crime which is found to be more absurd because Mr. Babu is totally illiterate and does not know how to write his own name."
BPCA's Naveed Aziz travelled to the town of Mr. Babu and met with his family and friends. They all believe the blasphemy allegation has been laid against Mr. Babu because of a rivalry between the primary complainant, Haji Nadeem, and Mr. Babu's brother George Masih.
Apparently. George Masih owns a thriving grocery shop and Mr. Nadeem has held a long-term desire to own the shop for himself.
Babu Shahbaz, 41, is married with one daughter and two sons. He has been evangelizing for the past 15 years and does not have a church building, but organizes healing and prayer meetings at his home. Christians and many Muslims attend his services for healing and blessings and many of those Muslims were contemplating converting to Christianity his family told BPCA. It has also been alleged that a Muslim Peer, Baba Pola Gujjar, has seen a significant reduction in his followers after many started attending the healing and prayer sessions at Mr. Babu's house.
"This animosity is said to be another trigger for false allegation of blasphemy laid against Mr. Babu," said the BPCA spokesperson. Haji Nadeem, Peer Baba Gujjar and some other local Muslims have been seething over the growing popularity of Mr. Babu. Friends told us that for the last few years often Mr. Babu has been implicated in false cases of blasphemy. It seems that local police has ignored all of this important background and followed through on an arrest based on the flimsiest of evidence. This is a common malpractice by local constabularies after a blasphemy case is alleged."
In the First Information Report (FIR), Mr. Nadeem has alleged that while he was travelling to his local mosque in the morning at he found torn pages of the Quran with the name of "Shahbaz Babu" written on them, and strewn across the floor. Believing that only the culprit could have written his name on the torn shreds of the Quran, he reported the "crime" to local police.
However, the BPCA says that the Christian community however finds it "bizarre" that a Christian man would desecrate the Quran in secret and then leave visible evidence of a crime that carries a death sentence by writing his name on the vandalized scriptures. It is an observation that seems to have been missed by local police and Muslims who are now threatening local Christians with violence.
Extra police officers have been deployed to protect the peace in the village of Kamahan, however many Christians have already fled the area and many local shops and churches were found with shutters down.
Major Nathaniel Sahid from the Salvation Army Church in Kamahan, said: "Local Christians are terrified. We are getting threats from local Muslim men that our community will be attacked. If we leave our homes, we will be robbed and, if we stay, we could get beaten, robbed or even killed. It is sad that a petty jealousy can lead to such hatred and the persecution of innocent people.
Local people refused to have photographs taken due to fear of repercussions.
Naveed Aziz, BPCA's Lahore based officer, said: "Rather than dismiss a somewhat frivolous case and inquiring into the allegations, it would seem Nishtar Town police, under duress from a local Muslim mob, registered the FIR and arrested Shahbaz Babu. Sadly, since his arrest, no-one has been allowed to meet with Mr. Babu including his family.
"We are all praying for a transparent investigation into this alleged blasphemy, in which all the rights and safety of Shahbaz Babu are made a priority. I have already spoken with a senior member of the police in the Model Town area, who has assured me that police would undertake a fair investigation, however initial steps undertaken by the police gives me little confidence."
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA. said: "This latest blasphemy case highlights the little progress made by the Government of Pakistan towards improving the rights of minorities under their protection. Wholly biased laws such as the notorious blasphemy laws of Pakistan have no place in egalitarian modern democracies, suggesting that the nation has moved forward little from its feudal past.
"In every blasphemy case in Pakistan common-sense flies out of the window as a corrupt and incredibly inadequate police force goes about its business with prejudice and avarice.
"While many of us celebrated the hope that a new year brings in the freedom of the West, the plight of Christians in Pakistan is once again proven to be one that is fraught with danger. Britain and the US have both maintained Pakistan as their largest foreign aid recipient for over a decade. The influence this provides them should be used as a lever to bring hope to minorities, instead it seems only to prolong the horror that Christians and other minorities face."
Pakistan-born Chowdhry, added, "Asia Bibi and 16-year-old Nabeel Masih faced Christmas behind bars praying that their death sentences will be lifted from them. However, in a country where national curriculum text books espouse hate ideology against minorities that creates such a palpable animosity, their hope must be waning thinner by the day. Please pray for Pakistan."
The BPCA is asking people to sign its petition calling for termination of Pakistan's notorious blasphemy laws by going to http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/terminateblasphemylaw.
Note: The British Pakistani Christian Association, hopes to raise funds to support the legal battle and to provide a safe home for the family of Mr. Babu. If you would like to donate to this work, please go to https://britishpakistanichristians.worldsecuresystems.com/donate.
For more information, please go to: http://www.britishpakistanichristians.org/.
Photo captions: 1) Shahbaz Babu. (Morning Star News, Courtesy of his family) 2) Pakistani women demand justice for Christians. 3) Wilson Chowdhry speaking in London. 4) Dan Wooding with his BPCA award.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 76, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria, West Africa, of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, who then worked with the Sudan Interior Mission, now known as SIM. He now lives in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder/president of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author or co-author of some 45 books. He has a weekly radio show and two TV programs all based in Southern California. Dan has received a special award from the BPCA for his long-standing reporting on the persecution of Christians in Pakistan.
** You may republish this or any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net). Please tell your friends and colleagues that they can receive a complimentary subscription to our news service by going to the above website and signing up there.