Christian Pakistani Couple Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy, Discharged.


A Christian couple in Pakistan, Shafquat Emmanuel and his wife, Shagufta Kausar were sentenced in 2014 for sending sacrilegious text messages which insulted the prophet Muhammad. The text messages were from a phone number which was registered in Shagufta’s name to a local imam.

The Christian Post reports that a Muslim cleric at a mosque in Gojra, Muhammad Hussain, alleged that in June 2013, he got blasphemous text messages from a phone number connected to Shagufta. Hussain showed his lawyer the text messages who claimed that he got such messages from Shagufta in English.

The couple were arrested in July 2013 and charged with blasphemy. Besides, Shagufta and Shafquat stated that Hussain accusation against them was because of a slight misunderstanding between their children and their neighbors.

The couple’s attorney, Saif-ul-Malook, opined that the neighbor they had a disagreement with might have planned to implicate them by buying a SIM card in Shagufta's name and sending the text messages. 

The laws relating to blasphemy in Pakistan is reportedly harsh. Consequently, a death sentence is the penalty for anyone accused of using unruly words on Islam or its prophet. However, there has not been any conviction so far although many persons have lost their lives to mob action when they are accused.

In the whole process of the investigation, the evidence against the Christian couple was not enough to nail them. Hence, they were discharged by the Lahore High Court. Malook informed the International Christian Concern (ICC) that he is happy for the outcome of the case.

"I am just happy to get justice for this couple. It's a bogus case. All judges are afraid. Nobody wants to hear their case and keeps tossing it to another bench. A session judge who visited the Faisalabad jail described Shafqat as a hopeless case. It means that being Christian and a blasphemy accused is itself sufficient for being hated by police, judges, lawyers, and the overall society. They are left to die," he said.

In his response, ICC’s Regional Manager, William Stark, stated that they are glad that Shafquat and Shagufta finally got their freedom after almost eight years in prison. He continued saying,

"It is great to see such a prolonged blasphemy case justly resolved. However, we remain deeply concerned for the safety of the Christian couple and their family. Extremists in Pakistan are known to target individuals accused of religious crimes, like blasphemy, even after they have been acquitted.’’

Furthermore, he stated that there is need to curb the abuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Likewise, false allegations must be attacked to its roots and offenders must not go unpunished. 

Stark noted that it has become a reoccurring issue for extremists to use these laws to instigate religious violence against a selected few. In conclusion, he called on a reform to prevent religious minorities from facing accusations on blasphemy and avoid the violence that comes with it.

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