Persecution of Christians in Pakistan
Persecution of Christians in Pakistan is endemic. The Islamic state is one where Christians are second-class citizens, usually permitted only to do the most menial and dirty jobs. Attacks on churches, murders, assaults, and rape are often reported. Mob violence against Christians is overlooked. Under Pakistani law, Christians may be arrested for crimes of "blasphemy," and if convicted face a possible death penalty.
Some people accused of blasphemy have been lynched by crowds. Lawyers, judges and those seeking to reform the blasphemy laws have also been threatened, attacked or even killed.
In the last 20 years, scores of Christians have been convicted for desecrating the Koran or for blasphemy. While most of them have been sentenced to death by the lower courts, many sentences have been overturned owing to lack of evidence.
Mrs. Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian, was arrested in 2010 on charges of blasphemy, and sentenced to death. She is still in prison. In 2015 a court gave her leave to appeal but when the appeal hearing opened in October 2016, the court in Islamabad was surrounded by a furious crowd shouting for her execution and threatening the judge if the death sentence was rescinded. Hundreds of riot police had to be deployed around the Supreme Court.
Mrs Bibi, a mother of five, did simple farm work in Itanwali, a village in Punjab where most of her co-workers were Muslim. There was a tap reserved only for Muslims, and a dispute arose about using it. The Muslim workers then accused Mrs Bibi of insulting the prophet Mohammed, a charge she denies.
Salmaan Taseer, governor of Punjab was killed by his own bodyguard in 2011 after speaking out for Asia Bibi. When the murderer was hanged, there were massive demonstrations in protest.
Judge Iqbal Hameed ur Rehman, one of three set to hear the appeal, recused himself from the case in 2016. In 2018, Mrs Bibi is still in prison and her family is in hiding. Her husband Ashiq Masih has said that even if she is released,there is no prospect of them returning to normal life anywhere in Pakistan.