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Christian Nurse Charged with Blasphemy in Pakistan

LAHORE, Pakistan, January 29, 2021 (Morning Star News) – Police in Pakistan who had dismissed accusations of blasphemy against a Christian nurse who was attacked by hospital personnel registered a case against her today after pressure from an Islamist mob, sources said.

Staff members of the hospital in Karachi on Thursday (Jan. 28) slapped, beat and locked nurse Tabeeta Nazir Gill, 42, in a room after baselessly accusing her of blaspheming Islam, sources said.

Police had questioned and released Nazir Gill after concluding that the accusations were false and based on a personal vendetta by a co-worker, but a Muslim mob besieged the police station today after the complainant, Saba Wasi, called on Muslim leaders to mobilize them, Christian rights activist Ghazala Shafique said. Nazir Gill and her family have gone into hiding and were not available for comment.

The First Information Report against Nazir Gill was registered under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s blasphemy statues, which calls for the death penalty for derogatory remarks about Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Wasi alleges in the complaint that Nazir Gill said that only Jesus is the true Savior and that Muhammad has no relevance.

In a video circulating on social media that a hospital staff member recorded of the attack, Nazir Gill, said to be a Catholic who is also a locally popular gospel singer, is seen crying for help as Muslim hospital personnel slap and punch her, and in one clip they thrust a notebook and pen into her hands to try to force her to sign a confession.

They call for her to “confess your crime in writing” amid a din of accusations and curses, and a staff member strikes her with a broom.

“I swear to God I haven’t said anything against the prophet [Muhammad],” Nazir says in the video clip. “They are trying to trap me in a fake charge.”

Staff members at the Sobhraj Maternity Hospital where Nazir Gill has worked for nine years locked her in a room after trying to force her to sign the confession, sources told Morning Star News.

“Fortunately, someone called the police, and they promptly arrived on the scene and saved her life,” said Pastor Eric Sahotra, who was among the first to reach the police station after officers took Nazir Gill in for questioning. “News of the incident spread quickly through the social media, raising fears of mob violence outside the hospital and other areas.”

After investigating, officers at the Araambagh police station found no evidence to support the blasphemy allegation against the Christian nurse, Pastor Sahotra said.

“A Muslim colleague made the false accusation due to a personal grudge,” he told Morning Star News. “Other hospital employees were misled into believing the allegation, so they also attacked Tabeeta.”

Hospital administrators told police that there had been no complaints of blasphemy against Nazir Gill, and that it was clear a co-worker had falsely accused her, he added.

Pastor Sahotra added that her two young children “are in a state of shock since the time they saw the graphic video of their mother’s beating.”

At this writing no legal action had been taken against the Muslim nurse who instigated staff members to attack Nasir Gill.

False Allegations

In Pakistan, false accusations of blasphemy are common and often motivated by personal vendettas or religious hatred. Accusations are highly inflammatory and have the potential to spark mob lynchings, vigilante murders and mass protests.

Many of those accused of blasphemy never reach the courtroom; violence has killed 62 accused people since 1990, with few prosecutions. Lawyers defending those charged with blasphemy, presiding judges, and individuals speaking against the law are also targeted.

With no presumption of innocence in Pakistan, anyone accused of blasphemy can be jailed, often for years, while false allegations go unpunished. In 2018, a Senate Special Committee on Human Rights and the Islamabad High Court had recommended that those making false blasphemy accusations be given the same punishments as those for blasphemy convictions, but the government dismissed the recommendation. The recommendation also stated that anyone registering a blasphemy case at a police station must bring two witnesses.

The punishment for blasphemy in Pakistan ranges from several years in prison to death. By contrast, a person making a false accusation faces potential punishment of six months in prison or a fine of only 1,000 rupees (US$6). Although successive governments have acknowledged that the blasphemy laws are blatantly misused, little effort has been made to stop the abuses.

Rights activists say it’s unlikely that any government will move to repeal or amend the blasphemy laws due to the fierce Islamic religious sentiments in the Muslim majority country. They say Pakistani authorities must be urged to immediately implement effective procedural and institutional safeguards at the investigative, prosecutorial and judicial levels to prevent abuse of these laws.

The U.S. State Department on Dec. 7 re-designated Pakistan among nine other “Countries of Particular Concern” for severe violations of religious freedom. Previously Pakistan had been added to the list on Nov. 28, 2018. The other countries on the list are Burma, China, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Sudan and Uzbekistan were removed from the department’s Special Watch List due to improvements in their religious rights records.

Pakistan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors 2021 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

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Article originally published by Morning Star News. Used with permission.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Jcamilobernal



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