By Jawad Mazhar, BosNewsLife Special Correspondent reporting from Pakistan
BHAWALPUR, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A Pakistani Christian army officer was in jail Monday, September 7. after a military court sentenced him to life imprisonment for allegedly murdering his wife, despite claims from his family that he is innocent.
The sentencing ended a 16-year long army career of Iqbal Masih, 35, who served as ‘Naik’, the equivalent to Corporal, in Pakistan’s armed forces in Punjab province.
“Although all the evidences showed clearly that [my] daughter-in-law died by committing suicide, the military court gave a life sentence to [my] innocent son,” said his mother Naseem Bibi in an interview with BosNewsLife in the city of Bhawalpur. “She committed suicide by putting herself on fire in the kitchen,” Bibi claimed.
She suggested that the case also underscored religious bias and corruption in the army. Bibi said an army Mayor had “assured” her that he would “successfully” secure the release of her son if he would receive 75,000 Pakistan Rupees ($910).
Naseem Bibi said her nephew Fayyaz Masih had even “sold his kidney to buy and sell a plot of land with profit” to raise money to buy her son’s freedom.
Despite receiving payments, the Mayor did not help her to secure the release of her son, she said. The army has so far not commented on the case and BosNewsLife was unable to confirm the mother’s claims independently.
However rights groups have expressed concerns about the reported mistreatment of minority Christians, rampant corruption and unfair trials in this mainly Muslim nation.
The detention of Masih has apparently increased the difficulties of Masih’s impoverished Christian family.”I have to beg to feed my two grand sons and two grand daughters”, aged four to eight, who are now without a mother and father, Bibi added.
She said she has appealed to Punjab’s Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharief and Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, to “evince personal interest in to this matter and secure release of my innocent son.”
It was not clear Monday, September 7, how the government would react to her plea.