Pakistan: Christian sanitary worker accused of committing blasphemy


London: A Christian man, James Masih, 42, from Layyah, Punjab has been accused of committing blasphemy by a Muslim patient Nazia. 

The incident occurred on Wednesday 5th in Tehsil Headquarter (THQ) hospital Chaubara, Layyah, Punjab.

Masih has been working in the THQ hospital Chaubara for the last 12 years. He was employed as a sanitary worker, but his duties included assisting the outpatients and the staff in the emergency ward. 

Masih told us that on Wednesday 5th, between 12- 12.30 Nazia, the widow of Arif Muhammad, went to the department for the medical check-up. 

He said: “I asked her to go room no 11 to get her blood pressure checked, but she insisted on getting her check-up done here.  

“While I was trying my best to convince her to go to room no 11 for a check-up, a staff nurse came there and I told her that this lady is not listening to me, the staff nurse asked her to go to room no 11 where Dr Maqsood would see her. She listened to her and went to see Dr Maqsood. 

“The doctor suggested that she get an ECG and some other tests done.

“She came back to me and started threatening and accusing me of uttering disrespectful words in respect of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH), while I hadn’t said any such thing. 

“I went to Dr Maqsood and told him that Nazia is accusing me of committing blasphemy. The doctor told me not to worry as she had gone for some tests and when she came back, he would talk to her.

“When she came back Dr Maqsood called me too, and he asked Nazia why she was accusing me of committing blasphemy, she replied ‘he was misbehaving with me’.

“In the meantime, one man entered the room with a mobile phone in his hand, Dr Maqsood knew him. 

“He said to the man you are from the media (social media).  He replied ‘no I am here for a medical check-up’. He had already filmed me and Nazia when she was shouting and accusing me of committing blasphemy, and I didn’t know anything about this.

“I got scared of this new situation, came back home and never went back.

“The next day I was told that there is viral video on social media, claiming that I had committed blasphemy. 

“I watched the video and it was breaking news broadcasted by the Ehsas TV9, that “a sanitary worker of the Chaubara Hospital, Layyah has committed blasphemy”. 

“I knew the sensitivity of this news, it was a death warrant against me. 

“The same night we decided to move somewhere safe for myself and my family, since then I have been hiding at an unknown place and do not meet anybody, whether it’s friends or relatives.

“I am very concerned about my safety and that of my family, and don’t know how we can live here but one thing is sure, I have no future and if I am traced they are going to kill me and I don’t know what will happen with my family.

“This is a very sensitive matter, and in such cases, people become very emotional. They can kill me on the spot as normally happens in such cases. There are a number of examples where innocent people have been killed on one person’s accusations.”

Shumaila, Masih’s wife said that her husband is innocent, and Nazia is just trying to settle her personal grudge with them. 

She explained: “Nazia is the widow of Muhammad Arif, a Rikshaw driver. 

“We had an arrangement with Arif to take to our children to school and drop them back home after school. It is a matter of about June this year, we were short of money and instead of Rs. 4000 I paid him Rs. 3600 and told him I would pay the remaining Rs. 400 later on. He told me he is going to Gujrat to buy medicines and when he returns, I can pay him. During this period, he died.

“After some time, his wife Nazia came to our house and told me that we owe her Rs. 4000. I told her that I had already paid Rs. 3600 and Rs 400 remained, which I could give her then, but instead she started abusing me, calling me Chuhras (pejorative word normally Muslims use against Christians), saying Christians are dishonest people, and being abusive against Christianity. 

“I stopped her from abusing my religion and holy people as this was a personal matter between us, but she didn’t stop.

“After a few days she accused my husband of committing blasphemy. The matter was brought to the attention of the hospital’s medical superintendent who involved the police superintendent and assistant superintendent. 

“James was found not guilty, and the matter was resolved. But this didn’t satisfy Nazia and she wanted to teach us a lesson and this time she has involved the media and is accusing my husband of committing blasphemy only to settle personal scores and she is accusing my husband of a crime he has never committed.

“Her false accusations have endangered our whole family’s lives and if is not resolved we have no future. My children have already stopped going to school, we have no permanent place to live but are moving from one place to another. 

“I am illiterate and don’t know how this matter will be resolved and how my husband can prove himself innocent.

Nasir Saeed, Director of CLAAS-UK has said: “It is sad that people are continuing to misuse this law blatantly. There are several instances where clearly it can be seen that accusations are false and the aim of the accusations is merely to teach someone lesson.  

“The law is considered an easy way to settle personal scores against someone while Christians are the main target.

“People don’t even think twice before using this law against someone, as victims of this law have to spend 8-11 years in prison to prove them innocent. 

“Even after acquittal by the higher court they are pardoned but still considered a blasphemer. 

“It is a hanging sword on the head of Christians and other religious minorities because when someone is accused of committing blasphemy it is not against a single person, but the whole community comes under threat. Shanti Nagar, Gojra and Joseph colony are a just few examples.

“Since the introduction of 295 C, nearly 100 people including women have be extra judicially killed and 100s are still languishing in jail for years for their fate to be decided.

“False accusers are never brought to justice, and this continues to encourage people to take the law into their own hands and make false accusations against other persons to settle their personal scores.  

“Law enforcement agencies feel under pressure in such cases, while courts take years to decide such cases because of fear and pressure. 

“It can be seen be in the video that Masih hasn’t said a single word, while the lady is speaking and the media person is trying to get a strong statement from her to be used against Masih. “I believe this was all preplanned just to implicate Masih in a blasphemy case to teach him a lesson.”

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