Christian party calls for the release of 24 prisoners accused of blasphemy

by Shafique Khokhar

The epidemic is worsening and, like Iranians and other prisoners released from Pakistani prisons, Christians should also be released immediately. The U.S. State Department asks Pakistani government to release the prisoners.

Karachi (AsiaNews) – On June 18, 2020, a protest (pictured) was organized by the National Christian Party in front of the Karachi Press Club, for the immediate release of 24 prisoners accused of blasphemy and held in several prisons of the Punjab province during the pandemic. The demonstration was also against the kidnapping of minority girls and their forced conversions.

Participants held placards and banners calling for the release of the 24 Christians, chanting slogans and asking the government to take the matter seriously.

Shabir Shafqat, the head of the National Christian Party, (in the photo) in his harsh words said that their protest is a slap on the faces of all those leaders who are seated abroad and do politics and speak for the rights of the Christian minority in Pakistan, but they do not raise these issues.

He also said that the epidemic is getting worse and, like the Iranians and other prisoners released from Pakistani prisons, our innocent 24 Christians should also be released immediately. Shabir added that many prisoners have been released for coronavirus, but there is no pity in Pakistan for those in the minority.

During the same protest it was also made known that Shakeel Anjum (a Pakistani American national, journalist and public figure) registered eight detainees for religious blasphemy in Pakistani prisons as religious prisoners. Shakeel also asked the US authorities to take note of the innocent Christians who have been tricked into blasphemy. In this regard, the U.S. Department of State has asked the Pakistani government to release these religious prisoners immediately, due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Pastor David Khushi of the Protestant church of Karachi in his comments asked the authorities and in particular Prime Minister Imran Khan to immediately take note of this problem, and also asked the national and international community to highlight and raise the issues of the innocent accused of blasphemy and of forced marriages and forced conversions of minority girls in Pakistan.

Since 2004, Pakistan has issued at least 4,500 death sentences, an average of one per day and since then Pakistan has executed 515 people, while 4,225 others await execution on death row.

During the first week of June 2020, prisoner rights groups from around the world called for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty during the coronavirus pandemic. Similarly, the Pakistani non-governmental organization, Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), which represents prisoners and the World Coalition against the Death Penalty, called on all countries to end executions because during the pandemic it is impossible to hold fair trials or guarantee a just legal representation.

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