In Pakistan, the misuse of blasphemy laws has become a pressing issue, with personal vendettas often taking precedence over justice. This alarming trend has led to the expulsion of individuals from their homes and businesses and even the loss of lives. The Christian community in Pakistan is particularly vulnerable, facing an increasing fear of being targeted under these draconian laws. The harrowing tale of Razaq Masih from the Narowal district sheds light on the devastating consequences of false blasphemy charges and the struggle for justice.
A Brutal Attack and Failed Justice:
Razaq Masih, a 35-year-old Christian resident of Narowal, faced harassment and threats from local Muslims who demanded the closure of his medical store situated near a Muslim Madrassa. In 2018, Maulvi Idress and Master Munir, along with an unidentified mob, brutally attacked Razaq with rods and knives, leaving him on the brink of death. He almost lost his life and spent five months in Mayo Hospital Lahore. Razaq contacted the police to file an FIR, which failed as no police officer was willing to register a complaint against the influential Madrassa.
Seeking Justice Through the Supreme Court Commission:
Undeterred by the local authorities, Razaq sought justice through the Supreme Court One Man Commission for minority rights, led by Dr. Shoaib Suddle. The Commission ordered a fair inquiry into the matter, but the police, instead of conducting a proper investigation, coerced Razaq into a peace agreement with his assailants. Threatened with dire consequences if he persisted in seeking justice, Razaq had to abandon his quest for Justice.
Forced Migration and a Fragile Peace:
Fleeing from the persecution, Razaq and his family moved to Islamabad, where they lived for two years. In 2020, Razaq returned to Narowal and cautiously reopened his medical store at Budha Dhola, located 10 kilometers from his hometown, hoping to avoid further trouble. For a brief period, things remained calm, but in 2022, the same group of Muslims discovered Razaq’s store in the city center. Demanding his conversion to Islam, they threatened him with blasphemy charges against Islam and the Prophet Muhammad if he refused.
A Desperate Flight to Freedom:
The situation took a grim turn on September 4, 2023, when a mob led by Bilal Jatt attacked Razaq’s medical store, reducing it to rubble. Fortunately, Razaq was not present at the time of the assault, and upon learning about the false blasphemy charges, he sought refuge in Lahore with his family. A concerned Korean friend, connected through social media, reached out for help.
International Rescue and Asylum:
On December 18, 2023, a rescue operation was conducted to move Razaq Masih to Southeast Asia, where he sought asylum with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The journey to escape persecution and secure a chance at a life free from false blasphemy charges was arduous, highlighting the need for international attention to the plight of individuals facing religious persecution in Pakistan.