Pakistani Christian nurse, student nurse accused of having committed blasphemy



FAISALABAD, Pakistan (Anawim Today) – Maryam Lal, a Pakistani Christian nurse and a third year student nurse, Navish Arooj, both of whom were working in the District Headquarter Hospital in the Pakistani city of Faisalabad on Thursday April 8 were accused of having committed blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad after Waqas, a ward boy in the hospital, alleged that the Christian student nurse removed a religious sticker from a wall and tore it up at the behest of Maryam Lal.

The sticker was inscribed with Islamic verses which exalted Prophet Muhammad.

On Friday, April 9 Waqas in a video statement accused Ms Lal and Arooj of having committed blasphemy.

In the video footage reviewed by Anawim Today Waqas alleged that Ms Arooj while working as a student nurse at the hospital on Thursday, April 8 removed the sticker from a cabinet on the wall.

Waqas in the video statement went on to say that he and his Muslim colleagues found that Ms Arooj tore up the sticker inscribed with the Islamic verses at the behest of Ms Lal.

A group of people can be seen in the video during the course of Waqas’s statement.

“I attacked Maryam Lal with a knife which inflicted a wound to her arm”, said Waqas.

He asked his audience: “Would you or anyone remain silent in the face of a blasphemy against prophet Muhammad”?

His audience in response raised slogans praising Prophet Muhammad and against Ms Lal and Ms Arooj.

In the video footage Waqas can be heard using expletives for Ms Lal.

Waqas criticised Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government for allowing Asia Bibi to go to Canada.

Miss Bibi who spent nearly 9 years in prison flew to Canada where she now lives after Pakistan’s top court acquitted her of blasphemy in 2019.  She was accused of having committed blasphemy by her co-farm hand in June 2009.

Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws continue to be used against Pakistani Christians and Muslims since they were introduced by the late military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s.

In 1997 the entire Christian village of Shanti Nagar was set on fire after rumours spread that local Christians had committed blasphemy. In 2009 some 9 Christians in the Pakistani town of Gojra were burned to death. In 2013 some 130 houses of Christians were torched in Joseph colony in the Pakistani eastern city of Lahore after rumours that Christians had committed blasphemy.

 In 2014, Shahzad and Shama, Christian brick kiln workers were burned alive on unsubstantiated accusations of having committed blasphemy.

Efforts aimed at stopping the misuse of the laws have been abortive. In the past then president Musharraf had said that an application for the registration of a blasphemy case should be investigated by a high ranking police official. This has had no effect as the police continue to file blasphemy cases after coming under pressure from charged mobs.

At least 1,296 blasphemy cases were filed between 2011 and 2015, the latest period for which consolidated data is available.

The blasphemy accusations against Ms Lal and Ms Arooj come just months after Tabeeta Gill, a Pakistani nurse was slapped, beaten with clubs and was allegedly dragged from the third floor to the ground floor of Sobhrajh maternity hospital in the southern port city of Karachi after she was accused by her Muslim nursing staff of having committed blasphemy after they put to her questions about her Christian faith.

A police First Information Report (FIR) was lodged against Tabeeta Gill on Thursday, January 28. Ms Gill was arrested but allowed to leave the police station after the police authorities did not find any merit in the blasphemy accusation.

Earlier today a large number of Muslim protesters staged a protest demonstration and called for the immediate arrest of Ms Lal and Arooj. A police First Information Report under section 295 B of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws has been lodged in Civil lines police station Faisalabad.

Section 295 reads: "Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punished with imprisonment ... for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both."

The FIR has been lodged on the complaint of Dr Mirza Muhammad Ali of the District Headquarters Hospital Faisalabad.

A delegation of Christian lawyers comprising Akmal Bhatti, Chairman Minorities Alliance Pakistan, Advocate Phool Saleem Advocate Shalal and others met Deputy Superintendent of Police, Rana Atta and urged him to investigate the allegations in a fair and impartial manner.

 

Editor’s note:

Caption: Protesters in Faisalabad 

About the writer:

Sheraz Khan is the founder and director of Anawim Today. He can be contacted by e-mail: sheraz@btinternet.com