Pakistani Muslims call PM Imran Khan to protect Christians after nurse accused of “blasphemy” is assaulted

2 February 2021

A Muslim cleric and a Muslim staff nurse have urged Pakistani authorities to protect Christian and other religious minorities after a Christian nurse was accused of “blasphemy” and assaulted at the hospital where she had worked for nine years.

Maulana Tahir, the cleric, and Kosar, the nurse, both called for the protection of religious minorities on social media, on 29 January, the day after Tabitha Nazir Gill was assaulted at the Sobhraj Maternity hospital in Karachi. Tabitha, a colleague of Kosar, was accused of insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad and then reportedly tied up with ropes, forced to submit an apology and left in a locked room until the police arrived.

Christian nurse, Tabitha Nazir Gill, pictured during the assault at Sobhraj Maternity Hospital in Karachi, from a video taken of the incident

Though the investigating officer had initially cleared Tabitha of blasphemy charges, calling it a “misunderstanding between colleagues”, later in the afternoon a blasphemy case was registered against her under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which carries a mandatory death penalty. Tabitha has since gone into hiding.

Maulana Tahir stated in a video posted on Facebook, “It is with great grief I request Prime Minister Imran Khan and state leaders to take notice. The police investigation proved that she didn’t commit blasphemy.” He continued, “Nowadays incidents are happening with girls of minority communities facing mountains of tyranny. Try to amend this law. Nobody should suffer.”

Staff nurse Kosar released her own video supporting Tabitha, she said, “What happened with Tabitha has created unrest. This is unacceptable. I know her personally. She is a good girl and has a kind attitude with everyone. A woman was degraded.”

At the end of 2020, approximately 22 Christians were on death row in Pakistan on “blasphemy” charges, including four minors. Seven have been sentenced to death. To date no one has been executed under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal code, which carries a mandatory death penalty. However, since 1990 at least 15 Christians were murdered extra judicially by zealous Muslims because of “blasphemy” allegations, even before their trial could be conducted in accordance with the law.

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