By Jawad Mazhar, BosNewsLife Special Correspondent reporting from Pakistan
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– An impoverished Christian family in Pakistan faced uncertainty Thursday, August 12, after a Muslim cleric pledged to withdraw a case of blasphemy against them, officials familiar with the procedures said.
Yousaf Masih, his wife Bashiran Bibi and their son-in-law Zahid Masih were charged with blasphemy against Islam because they allegedly used a curtain containing verses of the Koran — deemed a holy book by Muslims — to separate their toilet in their dwelling in a slum area of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province.
“The deplorably impoverished Christian family of Model Colony used the curtain only because they could not afford a wooden or steel door for their bathroom,” in Lahore’s ‘Model Colony’ said Joseph Francis, who leads the Pakistan-based ‘Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement’ (CLAAS).
After Muslims noticed the curtain a police case was filed against the Christians and thousands demanded their arrest, he added. Two Christians were briefly detained by police in recent days to “cool down” the crowd, before being released, Francis added.
Francis said he was cautiously optimistic that the blasphemy case would be dropped after he and other lawyers and Christian leaders held “peace talks” with the main plaintiff, Muslim cleric Muhammad Ibrahim, and other Muslims. “The Muslim plaintiff has pledged to withdraw the case and live in perfect peace with local Christians,” he said.
The cleric could not immediately be reached for comment as to if and when he would withdraw the case. On Thursday, August 12, the accused Christian family members remained in hiding as documents for a potential trial were still not withdrawn from the local Factory Area Police Station, Christians said.
Pakistan, a heavily Islamic nation of 177 million people, is under international pressure to change controversial blasphemy legislation under which minority Christians have been detained across the country.
Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws a man can potentially face execution if his insult to Islam amounts to apostasy, or turning away from Islam, while a woman generally faces life imprisonment.