A local court has granted post-arrest bail to a Christian couple who were arrested in Lahore last month on blasphemy charges for allegedly desecrating the Holy Quran, sources said.
The couple – Shaukat Masih and his wife Kiran Shaukat – were arrested and charged under Section 295-B of the blasphemy statutes after a local Muslim man accused them of throwing torn pages of the Quran from the roof of their house on September 8.
Section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code carries a mandatory life sentence for desecrating the Quran.
The complainant, Muhammad Taimur claimed that he saw the pages flying towards the ground when he was buying barbecue from a nearby shop near the Punjab Rangers Headquarters.
According to the FIR [First Information Report], the complainant alleged that he went to the house and confronted Kiran, who said that her children might have done it. He then searched the house and found a pink school bag behind a water tank on the roof, which contained more torn pages.
The couple’s lawyer Advocate Zahid Nazeer said that Additional Sessions Judge Lahore, Mian Shahid Javed admitted his petition for grant of post-arrest bail of the couple on Oct 18, enabling their release from prison on Oct 21.
“We told the court that the poor couple was innocent as neither of them was present at the alleged crime scene at the time of the incident. Moreover, Section 295-B clearly states that there has to be clear intent in committing the said crime whereas in this case there was no evidence that showed that the couple had committed the alleged act deliberately or willfully,” the lawyer said.
Moreover, Nazeer said the torn pages were not of the Quran but from a Grade 9 Islamic Studies book that was in a bag containing scrap paper meant to be sold to a scrap vendor.
“The couple has three minor children – two of whom are suffering from mental and physical disabilities – and they also can’t be held accountable for the desecration of the holy pages. None of the three children have ever been to school so it’s absurd to even claim that they tore off the pages intentionally,” he added.
The lawyer said there were also other loopholes in the case that showed that the police had shown undue haste in registering the FIR against the couple.
“For example, the police did not recover the alleged evidence itself rather it was handed to them by the complainant. Therefore, there’s a high chance of tampering with the evidence,” he said.
Advocate Nazeer added that the judge admitted his prayer and granted bail to the couple against surety bonds of 100,000 Pakistani Rupees each. The judge also observed that the case required further inquiry, he said.
‘CAN’T THANK GOD ENOUGH’
Talking to Kross Konnection, the couple said they couldn’t thank God enough for rescuing them from prison and reuniting with their children.
“We have been away from our children for over a month and each day we spent in prison was spent thinking what would become of them if we couldn’t get out,” said Shaukat Masih, who does odd jobs to provide livelihood for the family.
According to Masih, he was working at a car service station when the alleged incident took place.
“I was surprised to see a crowd gathered outside our house when I returned from work that day. As soon as I entered the building, some men started beating me up, calling me a blasphemer. They also beat my wife, paying no attention to our pleas that we had no idea about the alleged crime,” he said.
Masih said that someone then called the police who took them and their children into custody.
“They even arrested a Muslim couple who were our guests,” he said, adding that the police did not mistreat them when they were in custody.
“Our employer is a kind Muslim man who lives in Britain. He paid us for taking care of his property and gave us a room to live there. We have been living there for over a year but now we will not be going back to that area. We don’t feel safe!” said Masih.
Masih’s wife Kiran echoed similar concerns for her family’s security as she narrated how the complainant and other men had forced their entry into the house and manhandled her.
“I was working in the house of my employer’s sister who lives on the same street when this incident happened. The men forced me to open the gate of our house and stormed inside while pushing me away and hurling abuses,” she said.
According to the woman, she had no idea about the presence of holy pages in the plastic bag.
“The bag was given to me by my employer’s sister to sell to some scrap vendor. I honestly didn’t know it contained material that could put us at such great risk,” she said.
Expressing the family’s gratitude for HARDS Pakistan, Kiran said the outfit had taken good care of her three children – Sagar, 13, Sundas, 9, and Ruby, 7 – in their absence.
Sagar is suffering from rickets while Sundas is mentally retarded, she confirmed.