Pakistan: Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy – a sensitive issue in the country

A court in Lahore (Pakistan) has sentenced a Christian man to death in a three-year-old blasphemy case. The verdict was announced on December 20, 2023.

The police had filed a complaint in June 2020 following a complaint by a police officer accusing Anwar Masih of making offensive remarks against the Prophet Muhammad, which is punishable by death under the Pakistan Penal Code.

Anwar Masih’s daughter Samreen had married a Muslim man in 2017 and converted to Islam together with her mother. Anwar Masih’s wife and daughter filed a complaint against him, claiming that he was threatening them because they had converted to Islam.

The police called Anwar Masih to the Civil Lines police station in Lahore and abused him for harassing his wife and daughter, then accused him of blasphemy.

In April 2021, a charge sheet was filed against Anwar Masih, to which he responded with the words: “He pleads not guilty to the blasphemy charges against him.” The defendant’s wife, daughter and son-in-law unanimously stated that the complaint was based on the police’s malicious intent to implicate Anwar Masih in a fabricated case of blasphemy without their complaint, consent and authorization.

“He has never made any blasphemous remarks, either in person or over the phone. The application that my mother-in-law filed with the police contains allegations related to the domestic dispute and no allegation of blasphemous utterances,” the son-in-law explained. “However, the police have conducted an unfair trial without our consent and will and converted a family dispute into a blasphemy case.”

Anwar’s lawyer Rana Abdul Hameed told the media that instead of resolving Anwar Masih’s family dispute, the police had filed a blasphemy case against him for expressing his displeasure over the conversion of his wife and daughter.

He said that using the blasphemy law to settle personal scores is against the teachings of Islam. The verdict is to be appealed to a higher court.