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Pakistani mother and child escape blasphemy death sentence

A Pakistani woman walks past a house in the Kasur district (AP)

A nine-year-old child and his mother have narrowly escaped a death sentence under Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws.

The boy, known only as Inzam, was at school when he was accused of burning a Koran on Thursday October 20. He and his mother Shakil, a nurse who works in Quetta, were arrested the following day without any investigation or evidence. Under Pakistani law the witness of a Muslim is given higher authority than that of a non-Muslim.

They were released on Tuesday this week following community tension and pressure from local politicians and the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA). Police confirmed that no evidence had been found of desecration of a Koran.

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA, said: “The blasphemy laws of Pakistan serve no purpose but to cause pain and anguish to innocent victims. They are used as tools for discrimination and to settle personal vendettas. International bodies like the UN turn a blind eye to the impact of such laws to the detriment of global society. Their failure to respond is simply creating schism and animosity and the rise of Islamophobia, despite the fact most liberal Muslims despise the laws themselves.

“Pakistan’s refusal to reform or abrogate these laws should be recognised as a contravention of human rights especially freedom of religion, conscience and free speech. Action must be taken now before Pakistan, a nuclear nation, reaches a point of no return, especially considering the whipping up of hatred towards minorities that imams in Pakistan use the laws to generate.”

The most famous Christian detainee in Pakistan is Asia Bibi, who is still imprisoned after receiving a death sentence in 2010. Her final appeal against her sentence was adjourned earlier this month after one of the three judges said he could not hear the case for legal reasons. Despite the harsh laws, no one has yet been executed for blasphemy, but those accused are often at risk. A Christian couple were burnt to death in 2014 after being accused of burning a Koran.

Last Monday, more than 70 people died in a Taliban terrorist attack on a police training college in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan.