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25 November 2014

Pakistan Supreme Court intervenes in killing of Christian couple

The Supreme Court of Pakistan is to investigate the murder of the Christian couple falsely accused of blasphemy near Lahore this month.  

Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, the most senior judge in Pakistan, has asked the local government to produce a report about the incident and investigation so far. He has also asked for a report on the implementation of an earlier Supreme Court ruling on the protection of religious minorities' rights. 

The court had asked federal and provincial governments to form a national council for the rights of Pakistan's minority groups, but this has not happened, and the number of violent incidents against them has increased. 

A group of villagers beat, tortured and the burnt alive 26-year-old Shahzad Masih and his 24-year-old wife Shama Bibi, on 4 November. Reports from the village suggested the police were present during the attack, yet stood by and did not intervene. 

Head of the South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Alliance, Manoj Raithatha, has welcomed the Supreme Court's action, but is urging Christians in the UK to galvanise and sign a petition by the British Pakistani Christian Association, calling on the UK government to exert diplomatic pressure on Pakistan. 

"This move by the Supreme Court is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to protect Christians in Pakistan who face persecution. We need 100,000 signatures on this petition to force our government to do something tangible to ensure that there can be no 'business as usual' in Pakistan in relation to the murder of Christians under the pretence of its biased blasphemy law. 

"Pakistan needs to ensure that the impunity for hate attacks against minorities is stopped. And they can do this by guaranteeing that perpetrators are convicted rather than released after a short period of remand as in previous similar incidents. I hope this report will shed more light on the attack, and prosecutions will follow." 

To sign the petition to call on the government to take action against Pakistan, visit the page here

Last week, the Evangelical Alliance spoke exclusively to an eyewitness of the attack, who later held the "completely burnt" bones of the couple. Read that story here