Christians Rally Against Death Sentence of Youth in Sahiwal Blasphemy Verdict

Karachi, Pakistan (July 2, 2024) — Hundreds of members from the Christian community and various rights organizations took to the streets on Tuesday, carrying banners decrying the "misuse of blasphemy laws." The protests, led by the Minority Rights March (MRM) and Aurat March (AM) Karachi, were in response to the recent guilty verdict and capital punishment handed down to a young Christian man, Ahsan “Shaan” Masih, by an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Sahiwal, Punjab.

On June 29, 2024, Ehsan Shaan, aged 26, was sentenced to death for allegedly sharing a blasphemous TikTok post. The young man was accused of re-uploading a video that had previously incited a massive tragedy against the Christian community in Jaranwala, Punjab, on August 16, 2023. During this incident, a mob attacked, desecrated, and burned over 26 churches and numerous copies of the Holy Bible. Additionally, there was large-scale looting and burning of hundreds of houses and private property in several Christian colonies, as well as the desecration and vandalization of a Christian cemetery.

Despite the prosecution admitting that Shaan was not the author of the controversial video and that no blasphemous material was recovered from his mobile phone, he was still handed the death sentence. The case against him was based on the testimony of Sub-Inspector Aamir Farooq, who has since been promoted to the rank of SHO, and his colleagues. This case is seen as another instance of the Punjab Police targeting Christians under dubious circumstances.

Previously, the Punjab Police attempted to frame two Christian brothers, Raja and Rocky, for blasphemy in connection to the Jaranwala violence, but both were acquitted after the claims were found baseless. In contrast, those responsible for the mob violence in Jaranwala have faced weak prosecutions, resulting in many being released on bail without accountability.

The ATC judgment against Shaan echoed the FIR filed by the Sahiwal police, stating, "The accused while uploading the derogatory video on TikTok badly injured the religious feelings of Muslims." Critics argue that the police and prosecution have shown little interest in prosecuting those who orchestrated the Jaranwala violence, instead shifting blame onto a Christian youth.

Protesters are demanding that the Appellate Court overturn Shaan’s conviction, which they claim violates legal standards. They also call for an investigation into the conduct of the ATC Judge and the police officers involved in preparing the case. Furthermore, there are calls for action against those responsible for the Jaranwala violence and the police officers who have allegedly conducted flawed investigations.

Rights groups are urging the Prime Minister and Punjab Chief Minister to ensure Shaan's security and protection throughout the appeals process, which they demand be expedited. Additionally, they are calling for the Honourable Supreme Court to expedite hearing and adjudicating Constitutional Petition No. 53/2023, which demands a probe into the Jaranwala violence and the implementation of the 2014 judgment by Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani.

The protests highlight the growing demand for justice and protection for religious minorities in Pakistan, as well as the need for the government to uphold the rule of law and ensure fair treatment for all citizens.