hristian, Amir Masih, died from torture inflicted while in police custody in Lahore last year. A post-mortem examination found torture injuries on his hands, back and arms from police attempts to extract a “confession”. His brother said police urinated on him while cursing him for being Christian. The Punjab Chief Minister visited the grieving family and President Imran Khan’s government has been supportive of Christians.
Christians in Pakistan may number as many as 3.5 million, around 3% of the population, but they are despised and discriminated against by most of the Muslim-majority. As a result, many Christians live in poverty and are restricted to dangerous, dirty low-status jobs, such as cleaning sewers. Once rare, violent attacks have increased in the last two decades. Christians seldom get justice, because police usually discriminate against them.
Each year, an estimated 700 Christian women and girls are kidnapped, raped, forcibly converted, and married to Muslims. A law passed in Sindh in 2016 was designed to protect Hindu and Christian girls from forced conversions. The law is not yet ratified because of political pressure, although a Sindh parliamentary committee was formed in 2019, with the aim of protecting minorities there from forced conversion.
Pakistan’s notorious “blasphemy” laws are often exploited to target Christians and settle personal grudges. Entire communities have been violently targeted by Muslims following such allegations. Christians are especially vulnerable, as simply stating their beliefs can be construed as “blasphemy” and the lower courts usually favour the testimony of Muslims, in accordance with sharia.
The “blasphemy” laws include a mandatory death penalty for defiling the name of Muhammad. Although no executions have ever been carried out, at least eight Christians were on death row at the end of 2019. Between 1990 and 2019, 62 Christians were murdered because of “blasphemy” allegations, even before their trial could be conducted in accordance with the law.