Two Christian women beaten in Pak over blasphemy allegations

M Zulqernain

Lahore, Jan 15 (PTI) Blasphemy furore hit Pakistanagain as two Christian women were beaten and publiclyhumiliated by an angry mob in this city apparently overallegations of frivolous religious sacrilege.

The roughing up of the family forced them to go intohiding for fear of being killed, and the fresh incident as thecountry is yet to recover from the assassination of outspokengovernor Salmaan Taseer for his support to Christian womenAasia Bibi in jail on blasphemy charges.

According to media reports, the incident was triggeredover a trivial dispute between a Muslim woman and herChristian sister-in-law, both residents of an east Lahoreneighbourhood.

The two got into an argument on Tuesday night.

Though the matter was apparently settled, the Muslimwoman walked out onto the street on Wednesday morning afterher husband had gone to work and started shouting that hersister-in-law had abused Prophet Mohammed, The Express Tribunenewspaper reported.

A short while later, a group of men led by MuhammadSameer, a member of a religious organisation "keen on raisingits sectarian profile," forced their way into the Christianwoman''s house and started slapping her, said her brother.

"Other men and women from the neighbourhood startedgathering at the house too and they beat up my sister andmother. They were the only people in the house," the brothersaid.

"We tried our best to get her to confess her crime,"Sameer said. As a member of a religious organisation, he saidhe could not tolerate any derogatory remarks about theProphet.

Khadim Hazoor, Sameer''s son-in-law, said faces ofChristian women were blackened and they were made to wearnecklaces of shoes and paraded around the neighbourhood ondonkeys. The crowd showed no-mercy even as the womenrepeatedly touched the feet of the men denying committingblasphemy and asked for forgiveness.

Sameer said he was "very proud" of his wife forbeating the Christian woman.

"She beat (the woman) more than anyone else. Her handis so swollen that she hasn''t been able to make rotis sincethe day of the incident. I''ve been getting my meals from arestaurant," he said. The Christian woman''s family left theneighbourhood soon after the incident.

"None of our relatives is ready to let us stay withthem. They fear the wrath of the extremists, particularlyafter the assassination of Salmaan Taseer," a male member ofthe family said. .

He was referring to the recent killing of Taseer, the Punjab Governor, by a police guard who said he was angeredby the politician''s criticism of the country�s controversialblasphemy law.

Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Taseer, is a member ofthe same group as Sameer, the man who led the mob that beatthe Christian women.

The group also runs a 24-hour cable channel.

Hazoor said the people of the neighbourhood would not allowthe Christian family to return to their house.

He claimed that the fight between the Muslim woman andher Christian sister-in-law revolved around the upbringing ofMuslim woman''s 18-month-old daughter.

The Muslim woman wanted to raise her daughter as aMuslim but her sister-in-law wanted her niece to be raised asa Christian, he said.

Zameer Khan, an NGO worker, helped the family flee theneighbourhood after they were attacked.

"Apparently there was no blasphemy, just an argumentbetween two women," he said. He said he had helped relocatethe family temporarily.

Pakistan''s blasphemy law has been at the centre of aheated debate since a lower court in Punjab sentenced AsiaBibi, a 45-year-old Christian woman, to death last year forallegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

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