PAKISTAN: USCIRF condemns violence against Christians

Nazir Gil Masih, lynched by a mob in Sargodha, died in the hospital. The situation is no longer tolerable, the American commission says.

By Massimo Introvigne


Bitter Winter (11.06.2024) – Nazir (Lazar) Gil Masih didn’t make it. The 74-year-old Christian escaped a mob’s lynching attempt in Sargodha, Pakistan, on May 25 alive. But he passed away in the hospital on June 3. As “Bitter Winter” reported, the mob’s attack was a combination of sectarian bigotry and the jealousy of business competitors who fabricated the accusations of blasphemy and instigated the mob.

Elections are celebrated, governments change, but the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan remains the same. On June 7, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom reacted with a strong statement. The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). Its Commissioners are appointed by the President and by Congressional leaders of both political parties.

After offering a summary of the Sargodha tragedy, the USCIRF commented that, “The brutal killing of Lazar Masih is an alarming reminder of the dangers of merely being suspected or accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, The country’s draconian blasphemy law signals to society that alleged blasphemers deserve severe punishment, which emboldens private individuals and groups to take matters into their own hands. Pakistani authorities must hold those responsible for his death accountable.

The USCIRF adds that, “This latest wave of mob violence comes nearly one year after the Jaranwala attacks, where thousands of individuals attacked Christian homes and burned 24 churches following false accusations of blasphemy, prompting several Christian families to flee their homes. In addition to inciting violence towards religious minorities, blasphemy accusations often lead to lengthy prison sentences on death row or solitary confinement.”

The reaction of Pakistani authorities has been an attempt to make blasphemy laws not better but worse. The USCIRF notes that, “In January 2023, Pakistan’s National Assembly unanimously passed an amendment to the country’s blasphemy law, expanding punishable offenses and offering harsher punishments for blasphemy. In August 2023, the Senate passed the bill. The bill still requires the president’s signature before becoming law.”

Predictably, the statement concludes, “There has been an increase in blasphemy cases in Pakistan and USCIRF is deeply concerned that the pending amendment to the country’s blasphemy law may exacerbate current trends.”

The American commission also mentions the anti-Ahmadi laws and the continuous persecution of the Ahmadiyya Community.

Nazir Gil Masih in happier times. From X.

Further reading about FORB in Pakistan on HRWF website