LAHORE: Samuel Masih, 27, a suspect in a blasphemy case, who is in critical condition at the Lahore General Hospital after a police constable hit him on the head with a brick cutter, has been charged under Section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which carries a maximum sentence of up to two years.
According to the first information report lodged against Samuel, he littered the wall of Darul Islam Masjid in Lawrence Gardens on August 23 last year.
Chaudhry Muhammad Yaqoob, librarian of the Darul Islam, who lodged the FIR stated: “I work as the chief librarian at Idrae Darul Islam in Jinnah Garden. I was sitting in the mosque and was reciting the Quran. I saw a stranger, whose name was later found out to be Samuel, the son of a man named Emanuel, spitting on the mosque’s wall where the mosque’s plaque is placed. I stopped him from doing so. Qari Riffat and Darul Islam’s library assistant Muhammad Aslam also saw this.”
There are four sections of the PPC, which provide punishment for a person accused of blasphemy: Sections 295, 295 A, B and C. Section 295 says that the punishment of a person could be extended to a maximum of two years or a fine or both if he defiled a place of worship with the intent of insulting the religion of any class.
The Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), a non-government organisation working for minority rights, has been pursuing the case since August 23 last year. The NGO said it was the second case of its kind in which Section 295 of the PPC was imposed. Samuel was sent to Kot Lakhpat jail for trial.
Samuel was suffering from tuberculosis and had to be admitted to Gulab Devi Hospital on Friday, May 21 after a TB attack in jail. The next morning, Constable Faryad Ali reportedly attacked him with a brick cutter in the presence of another guard. “I wanted to earn a place in heaven by killing him,” is what constable Ali is reported to have said. Samuel was subsequently transferred to Lahore General Hospital.
CLAAS has filed a writ petition in the Lahore High Court against the Kot Lakhpat jail superintendent and Dr Sikandar, who were in charge of the emergency ward when Samuel was admitted after being reportedly hit over the head by a constable. The NGO has questioned how the accused was attacked even in police custody. The court will hear the petition on June 2. Samuel was still in serious condition under police custody when this report was filed. The police have barred visitors and his relatives were reportedly refused permission to see him on Wednesday. Constable Ali, who attacked Samuel on May 22, was sent to jail after a case was registered against him.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s fact-finding team, CLAAS and other NGOs have declared the incident an example of the misuse of blasphemy law.
“A third person, who did not know about the case, assumed Samuel was a blasphemy culprit and attempted to murder him,” said Joseph Francis, the CLAAS coordinator. He said the government should revise the blasphemy law.
Waseem Anthony of the Commission for Peace and Human Development said the life of citizens was at stake due to the abuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan.
Samuel’s younger brother Sarwar told Daily Times they were told about the incident two days later. He said the whole family was dependant on Samuel. Samuel was whitewasher, said Sarwar. He said that Samuel’s became mentally unstable after the death of their mother and he was not in his senses when he left home on August 23. “The day when this incident happened, Samuel left home in anger because he had a fight,” he said.