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Pakistan: Christian woman arrested for blasphemy after forwarding WhatsApp post

by Heather Preston
Pakistan Christian Movement persecution protest credit Alamy.jpg - Banner image

A Christian woman in Pakistan has been accused of blasphemy after forwarding a message on social media.

Shagufta Kiran was arrested, along with her two sons after armed police stormed their home without a warrant.

According to her husband Rafique Maish she has been accused of violating blasphemy laws because she forwarded a post from a WhatsApp group, that allegedly contained blasphemous content.

"They harassed my family and took possession of our telephones, computer and other valuable items. The police were armed with firearms, instructed us not to move and to keep our hands up. They arrested Shagufta and my two sons without prior information or an arrest warrant," he told Pak Christian News.

Rafique's children were later released while Shagufta remains in police custody after being charged under 295-A and 295-B of Pakistan's blasphemy laws - sections that make it a criminal offence to insult the founders or leaders of any religious community.

Rafique claims his wife was not aware the content of the post she forwarded was blasphemous and would result in her arrest: "Shagufta knew nothing about the post, she was not even the author of the post in question but was accused of passing it on."

Christian persecution charity CLAAS has raised concerns over the ongoing misuse and abuse of the blasphemy law against poor and illiterate members of religious minorities.

CLAAS-UK Director Nasir Saeed said: "This is not the first time that someone has been charged for sharing a post on social media.

"While police have failed to find and arrest the authors of such posts."

Christian couple Shafqat Emmanuel and Shagufta Kausar were sentenced to death in 2014 for 'sending blasphemous texts' and spent seven years in jail waiting to appeal their convictions and death sentences, which are mandatory under Pakistan's laws. They were finally acquitted on 3rd June 2021 by the Lahore High Court.  

Christian mother Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by hanging for blasphemy in Pakistan. She spent nine years on death row before being acquitted by the Supreme Court in 2018.

Saeed says despite these success stories, many persecuted Christians are "not so lucky" and are often left "languishing in prison."

"I don't know how many years it will take for Shagufta Kiran to prove herself innocent," he added.

Pakistan is number five on the Open Doors World Watch List 2021 - a list that ranks countries where Christians face the highest levels of persecution. 

The European Union parliament has adopted a resolution for Shagufta, demanding that Pakistan allow space for religious freedom and has urged the EU authorities to review Pakistan's GSP Plus status - a special initiative to protect the human rights and good governance of developing countries.

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