A Christian couple is currently in jail in Punjab province, Pakistan, because a judge has decided to keep them behind bars for allegedly disrespecting the Quran, a holy book for Muslims.
Shaukat Masih, 33, and his wife Kiran, 28, got arrested in Lahore on September 8, 2023. On Tuesday, September 19, they appeared in court, where Additional Session Judge Mian Shahid Javaid ordered them back to prison under controversial blasphemy laws. The case is set for further proceedings on October 5, 2023. Kiran is held in Central Jail, Kot Lakhpat, Lahore, while her husband, Shaukat Masih, is in Camp Jail, Lahore.
Section 295-B of the blasphemy law has strict punishments, including the possibility of life imprisonment. This section applies to those who intentionally defile, damage, desecrate or misuse a copy of the Quran or its parts in a disrespectful or illegal manner.
Their troubles started when Kiran, who works as a domestic helper, was given some papers to sell by her employer’s sister. She didn’t know that these papers contained pages from the Quran. On September 7, Muhammad Taimoor, the person who filed the complaint, visited their home, found the pages, and then reported the alleged blasphemy to the police, according to sources familiar with the case.
After the incident, religious leaders used mosque announcements to encourage protests among different religious groups. On September 9, angry demonstrators gathered, demanding that the couple be executed.
They wrongly believed that blasphemy should result in the death penalty, even though the law states that desecrating the Quran could lead to life imprisonment. Other blasphemy charges related to Islam might carry the death penalty.
However, Shaukat Masih, who works as a security guard, and his wife are both unable to read and write. They have three children: Sabir, who is 12 years old, Sundas, who is 6, and Rubi, who is 5.
They used to live in a rented house but moved to their current home, which was provided by Masih’s employer, about six months ago. He had taken a job as a security guard, which came with a place to live, while Kiran found work as a house cleaner in the same house.
MISUSE OF BLASPHEMY LAWS IN PAKISTAN
It is worth noting that blasphemy laws in Pakistan have been a subject of concern due to their potential for misuse. These laws, originally intended to protect religious sentiments, have at times been exploited to settle personal disputes or target minority communities unfairly. Cases like that of Shaukat Masih and Kiran underscore the urgent need for a reevaluation of these laws to ensure justice and prevent their abuse.
REQUEST FOR PRAYER FOR THE COUPLE
In light of the difficult circumstances faced by Shaukat Masih and Kiran, ECSPE Team request everyone to keep them in their thoughts and prayers. Let us hope for a just resolution to their case and for the safety and well-being of their family during this challenging time.