An evangelical Christian from the village of Kamahan, near Lahore, was arrested on charges of blasphemy and now faces the death penalty.
According to a complaint by a Muslim, Haji Nadeem, Shahbaz Babu
desecrated Islam's holy book by writing his name on some pages, tearing
them up and then scattering them on the street in front of a mosque
where a Muslim, Peer Baba Gujjar, preaches.
According to British Pakistani Christian Association, the Christian
man is completely illiterate, so he could never write his name on any
Still Babu was arrested on 30 December in accordance with Article
295B of the Pakistan Penal Code. After the complaint, Babu, 41, a
married father of three, was taken to the Nishtar police station.
Later, to avoid possible reprisals from Muslims and to ensure his
protection, the accused was moved to the Model Town station, in another
district of Lahore.
Activists note that no one saw him write his name in the Qurʾān.
Instead, the complaint could be a retaliatory act against his family,
because the accuser is in a dispute with Babu’s brother George Masih who
owns a thriving grocery store, which Nadeem wants to take over.
The Evangelical Christian is also disliked by local Muslims for
organising prayer meetings at his home. For 15 years, many Christians,
but also several Muslims, have participate in his meetings and have
asked for his blessings and healings.
Some of the accused’s friends believe that his increasing popularity
has fuelled a climate of intolerance among Muslims, especially since
Peer Baba Gujjar’s mosque was losing members.
Others also point out the oddity of the sequence of events: Babu is
supposed to have desecrated the Qurʾān in secret, but then left the
evidence for everyone to see.
In Pakistan, insulting Muhammad is a capital crime. Anyone speaking
out against the ‘black law’ of blasphemy risks life and liberty.
This is what happened to Shaan Taseer, son of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab who was killed in 2011 by his bodyguard for defending Asia Bibi, a Christian mother accused of insulting the prophet, in prison since 2009.
Shaan Taseer had recently posted a Christmas message on social media calling for prayers for the unjustly accused.
This was followed by a fatwa against him by an Islamist group, Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah, saying that he is "condemnable to death."