Pakistan: On May 19, the judicial magistrate cantt, Lahore, sent two Christian teenagers, Simon Nadeem, 12, and Adil Baber, 18, to jail on judicial remand, after they were charged under the blasphemy law section 295-C.
Both boys were charged and arrested by the police on May 18 after a complaint was made against them by police constable Zahid Sohail.
He said in his application to the police, that he was going to the mosque for prayers, when he saw the boys, Simon, son of Nadeem Nadu Masih, and Adil Baber, son of Baber Masih.
He alleged that they were both making fun of each other and were calling a puppy Muhammad Ali.
He also stated he has two eyewitnesses, Shabir Iqbal and another one, who can confirm his allegations. While both families said they have no puppy.
Samina Nadeem, the mother of Simon, told Pak Christian News (PCN): “On 18 May around 4:30 pm my son Simon and his friend Adil Baber were playing outside our house.
“Adil uses Naswar (a dipping smokeless tobacco product commonly used in Pakistan), while my son Simon was making fun of Adil for his this addiction to Naswar, he was asking Baber to spit out Naswar from his mouth.
“‘Muhammad Ali’ is the brand name of the Naswar he takes. While both boys were talking about the brand, at the same time Zahid Sohail, a policeman, was passing by and heard them. Without knowing the facts, he started beating the children, saying they were committing blasphemy.
“Sohail didn’t bother to find out the facts but started shouting and accusing the boys of committing blasphemy. He was purposely making a noise so in a few minutes several people gathered around and Sohail was telling everyone that these boys had committed blasphemy.
“People were continuing to gather to find out what was going on, but no one was trying to know the facts.
“Instead it seems they were believing what Sohail was telling them.
“This infuriated some of them and they ran to beat both boys, but somehow they managed to escape and save their lives.”
Mrs Nadeem told us she has three sons and Simon is the youngest. While all this was going on in the street, Nadeem arrived home from work, he saw this situation and got scared when he was told that his son had committed blasphemy.
She added: “He and Baber both tried to calm down the mob but no one was willing to listen, and instead they wanted Simon and Adil handed to them so they could punish them.”
Baber, father of Adil, who was sitting next to Mrs Nadeem said it was a very scary situation.
He said: “We were praying in our hearts and trying our best to calm down the mob as we knew what chaos could happen.
“I was reminded of all the past incidents like vigilante killings, ransacking churches and setting fire to Joseph colony.
“I continued praying that none of the past incidents would be repeated here, and God heard my prayers. A large number of police, including the deputy superintendent of police (DSP) and several senior inspectors, immediately started to calm down the mobs, assuring them that if someone had committed blasphemy he would be arrested and punished according to the law. The crowd somehow calmed down and demanded the arrest of both boys.
“Both boys were so scared and hiding inside their house. Simon is so young and therefore his father doesn’t want him to be arrested.
“So instead of his son, Simon, Nadeem asked the police to arrest him. Until that time, I didn’t know that my son’s was also named in the First Information Report (FIR).
“I decided to hand over my son to the police, but I also sat in the police van and went to the police station with them to ensure the safety of my son and also to assure my son that doesn’t worry I would do everything I could. It was scary when I was sitting in the police van as several people were running toward the van to grab me and my son from the police with the intention to kill us, but the police saved our lives.
“When we reached the police station, they put Adil and Nadeem in the cell and later on asked me to leave the police station and go home.
“They told me that for his safety, they would release Nadeem once Simon was arrested.
“It was the most difficult time of my life, I didn’t want to come home without Adil, but I had no option.
“I came home with a heavy heart and took my wife and other children, locked our house and sought refuge with someone I know. since then we are hiding and are not aware of our future.”
He further said that as the situation continued to worsen, it was decided to handover Simon to the police, otherwise his life could be in danger.
While Baber was talking to PCN, his phone rang and we could see the relief on his face. When he finished, he told us “Thank God, the police have released Nadeem”, but that didn’t mean he was a free man.
There were some rumours that after Friday prayers a mob could attack Christians’ houses therefore several people had left their homes and moved to unknown places to save their lives.
He added: “I hope the police conduct their investigation impartially and court does the justice to them. They need to be released soon, otherwise, they have no future.”
Nasir Saeed Director of CLAAS-UK said: “Unfortunately people continue to use the blasphemy law over petty issues. They hardly hesitate to take the law into their own hands.
“I don’t think these two young boys had ever thought that any passer-by could hear their conversation and accuse them of committing blasphemy and endanger their lives. Sadly misuse of the blasphemy has become so common and people never think twice about how dangerous its consequences could be.
“Recently we heard that Musarrat Bibi, who was arrested for committing blasphemy earlier this month was released on 11th may, but just after a week two other Christian boys have arrested for a crime they never committed. This has changed their lives forever.
“Christians are living under constant threat of their lives while the international community, including US Commission on international Religious freedom (USCIRF), UN and EU has expressed their concerns with the Pakistani government over the continuous misuse of the blasphemy law.”
Recently human rights watchdog, Human Rights Without Frontiers Int'l (HWRF) had a conference in Brussels under the title “The GSP+ and blasphemy laws in Pakistan in the dock” and criticised the misuse of the blasphemy law in Pakistan. According to them Pakistan is a country of high concern for its systematic and serious religious freedom and other human rights’ violations, and they have submitted several recommendations particularly in regard to stop the misuse of the blasphemy law.
Mr Saeed further said that both boys have been sent to jail, and nobody knows their fate.
He added: “I hope the police conduct their investigation impartially and court does the justice to them. They need to be released soon, otherwise they have no future.”