Pakistan blasphemy case: Muslim mob demands rearrest of Christian

Muslim mob protest in Lahore.

A sizable Muslim mob screaming slogans demonstrated on the streets of Lahore on Sunday calling for a Christian youth’s re-arrest, according to credible sources who spoke to Christian Today.

The banners in Urdu say, "We oppose the 295C investigation," and the crowd of people can be heard chanting, "Gusthake Rasool ki Ek Saza, sar tan se juda...sar tan se juda!" in a video.

Saleem Iqbal, a human rights activist from Lahore, said in a statement to Christian Today that "the only punishment for the one who has blasphemed against the Prophet is to be beheaded."

In Lahore, Pakistan, on May 18, 2023, Simon Nadeem, 12, and Adil Babar, 17 (a distant relative of Simon), were detained on suspicion of blasphemy. They remained in custody until Adil was given bail on July 20. While Simon's bail was turned down by the lower court, Adil was successful in getting one.

According to the FIR (First Information Report), Adil's role was not as significant as Simon's, according to the police inquiry, Iqbal stated.

The ruling from Lahore's Additional Sessions Judge, Abul Qayyum Bhutta, dated July 20, 2023, approving Adil's bail, read as follows:

…accepted subject to deposit of (Pakistani) Rs. 100,000 along with one surety in the like amount …

On July 23, a Muslim mob thought to number over a thousand marched through the streets calling for Adil's re-arrest.

In the videos that have made it to Christian Today, men can be heard protesting the release of Adil and criticising the police and the judges while yelling into loudspeakers.

“I am very scared,” said Adil while speaking to Christian Today. “I am watching the mob videos on my phone and don’t know what will happen in the next minute.”

Adil's mother and sister are in one place, while his father and elder brother are hiding in another.

“I don’t know how long this shall go on,” said Adil. “I haven’t met my mother since I came out of jail,” he remarked agitatedly.

Adil claimed that when they were detained, he and Simon prayed for their release each day. “I have encouraged Simon that he too will soon be out,” he said.

Since May 18, Simon's mother, father and brothers are in hiding and have not gone to work.

The skittish banter misinterpreted

Last night (July 25), Adil told Christian Today that he and Simon were jokingly speaking to one another when one of them remarked, "I will punch you with a Muhammad Ali punch (the boxer)," to which the other teasingly replied, "You are not Muhammad Ali. You are a dog."

When Zahid Sohail, a police officer, heard the youngsters, he believed they were insulting the prophet Muhammad and started beating Simon.

“I tried to stop him and make him understand, but he refused to listen,” said Adil.

Sohail had gone out and spread the information around the entire neighbourhood. A Muslim crowd immediately gathered outside Simon's home, demanding to be given the youngster so that "they could behead him," according to Simon's mother.

“I pleaded with the agitated mob to forgive both the boys, if they have done anything to disrespect or displease them, but the mob did not listen,” Simopn’s mother told Christian Today.

When the police finally got involved, it was already midnight. They explained the situation to Simon's parents and persuaded them to allow Simon and Adil to be jailed otherwise the mob would kill them sooner or later.

According to Simon's mother, the police disguised Adil, Simon and his father by dressing them in uniforms, placing helmets on their heads, and mixing them in with other uniformed policemen. They then transported them securely to a police van before leaving the scene.

The mother claimed that her neighbours later informed her that Simon had previously mistreated Sohail and that perhaps he was seeking retaliation by making accusations against him.

A case was registered against the Christians under the blasphemy law (Section 295-C of Pakistan penal code) that forbids insult to the prophet Muhammad either by words, spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, and prescribes the death penalty as the maximum punishment along with a fine.

Two days after their arrests, Simon's father was granted bail and released.

In a written complaint against the boys, Sohail alleged that after Simon nicknamed a dog "Muhammad Ali," the guys were making fun of the animal. The families have refuted this claim and said that Sohail made it up afterwards because there was no puppy there at the time of the event and no one on their street has any dogs.

Since then, the police have called Simon and Adil's family to the police station every other day to ask about a dog that Sohail had mentioned in the FIR.

Iqbal, the human rights activist, emphasised the persistent questioning regarding the dog's identity, from whom the family had purchased the dog, and to whom they had sold it. “The police have been enquiring about a dog that Adil had a year ago,” he added.

“The dog’s name was Kiki and she was a female dog. They had sold her a year ago through an online site. Now the police are wanting the receipt of the deal which is not possible. They did not take a receipt,” clarified Iqbal.

Iqbal believes that the complainant does not allow for a compromise, despite the police officers' early insistence that the Christian families reach a solution with the complainant.

“Every time I went to the court for bail hearing, the Muslim mob reached the court with one or two buses full of supporters,” said Iqbal, who is helping the family legally and financially since the incident.

Simon’s “family is suffering legally and financially. I wrote to a few organisations to support and stand at this difficult time with us, but nobody has responded,” Iqbal said emphatically.

“I have put all my confidence on the Lord that He will bring justice for us. It is neither our fault nor our child’s fault that he should be punished,” said Simon’s mother.

She travels to see Simon every week. Although Simon is not with me, Samina said, "I am thankful that he is safe inside the jail."