Two main opposition parties in the National Assembly protested on Friday against a death sentence passed on Thursday by a Lahore court against a Christian man.
Shazia Marri of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Shirin Mazari of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) complained of persecution of minority communities in the country, particularly on trumped up blasphemy charges as, they alleged, had happened in Lahore a year ago when more than 3,000 people rampaged through a Christian colony and burned some 100 homes after a Christian was accused by a Muslim friend of committing blasphemy during a conversation.
Lawmakers of the two parties seemed unconvinced by a statement by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N’s young member Hamza Shahbaz Sharif (son of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif) about the concern showed by the provincial administration over the March 7, 2013 incident and help given to the sufferers of the Joseph Colony neighbourhood.
Ms Mazari called it a travesty of justice that people who burned the colony in Lahore were released on bail while one man tried for a disputed charge had been sentence to death as she also spoke of persecution of minorities in general such as kidnapping of members of Hindu community in Sindh and blasphemy charges brought against Christians mostly in Punjab.
She kept on agitating the issue even after the deputy speaker tried to restrain her, shouting “We are disappointed, we are disturbed,” before she had her mike switched off, and then restored briefly, before the chair gave the floor to Mr Hamza Sharif to recall his father’s orders after the incident to rebuild the destroyed Christian homes “within one night” and compensate the sufferers even for losses of jewellery made for weddings, and to assure the house that those responsible for the attack would be brought to justice.
Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi disallowed any more discussion on the Lahore court verdict before adjourning the house.
The convict, Sawan Masih, who heard the sentence of death and a fine of Rs200,000 inside a jail, has claimed innocence and cited a property dispute with his friend as the real reason for the blasphemy allegation.