Pakistani Christian charged with blasphemy on same day 106 Muslims acquitted in anti-Christian attack

An elderly Pakistani Christian was sent to jail for blasphemy on the same day that a court acquitted 106 Muslims accused of attacking a Christian colony in 2013.

(REUTERS / Akhtar Soomro)Policemen move to disperse residents after they threw stones at the participants of the Freedom March, which was led by cricketer-turned-opposition politician Imran Khan, in Gujranwala August 15, 2014.

On Jan. 28, a mosque leader in Lambanwali, north of Gujranwala in Punjab Province, accused a Christian man named Mukhtar Masih of writing letters that are insulting to the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad. He faces a 10-year jail sentence and/or a fine for intentionally provoking religious feelings as well as a three-year prison sentence and/or a fine for insulting "holy personages," the Baptist Press details.

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"The police took with them Masih, his son, daughter, and three children," a local source told Morning Star News. "The family was later released on the intervention of rights outfits, but Masih was detained under blasphemy charges."

According to the source, local Muslims made up the blasphemy charges against Masih because they wanted to seize his property. Because of the incident, the Christian man's relatives went into hiding.

On the same day that Masih was charged of blasphemy, an Anti-Terrorism Court in Lahore acquitted the 106 Muslim suspects in a 2013 mob attack on Joseph Colony which stemmed from a blasphemy accusation. The acquittal comes after prosecution witnesses denied seeing any of the defendants.

Meanwhile, the persecution of Christians in Pakistan now has a chance of easing up after the national assembly passed a bill to protect religious minorities. The new bill, which aims to outlaw mob violence, is only awaiting the president's signature before it becomes a law, Premier reports.

Samuel Pyara, the president of Christian persecution awareness group Bright Future Society, lamented how mob attacks have become part of Pakistanis' mindset.

"These measures were crucial to save our country," said Pyara. "Mob justice has become a part of people's mind-set. There was a great need to make it a punishable offence and we appreciate the government's action."

Blasphemy accusations are reportedly used to settle personal scores against Christians and religious minorities. Persecution charities have also warned that these false charges could give way to mob attacks against believers in Pakistan.

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