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Pakistan: Don’t Forget Imran!

Pakistani Christian in Prison for Life Because of His Faith

Imran Ghafur is now more than six years into a life sentence in prison for his Christian faith, and no judge or attorney is willing to hear his appeal. Accused by his neighbor of burning pages of the Quran in 2009, Pakistan’s High Court has repeatedly delayed his appeal, leaving him to languish in prison.

Imran
Imran Ghafur

Police arrived at Imran’s house in July 2009 just in time to stop a mob from killing him. Though both he and his father had been beaten viciously by the mob, police arrested Imran, but none of his attackers. Radicals gathered in front of the police station where he was detained, hurled rocks at the building, called for his death and shouted curses, saying, “Christians are dogs, Imran is a dog.”

He was eventually found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to life in prison.

Afterward neighbors told Imran’s family to leave the area because no one in the community would allow them to continue to operate their businesses. They lost both the family’s primary breadwinner and their role in their local Christian community. VOM has been supporting the family and remaining in close contact.

Many believers worldwide are aware of the case of Asia Bibi, another Pakistani Christian who was also arrested and imprisoned in 2009. Asia became the first woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan’s history. Many have advocated on her behalf, including dignitaries, the Vatican and two Pakistani officials who were later assassinated because of their support for Asia. Asia’s case has also been delayed multiple times.

The so-called blasphemy laws come from section 295 of Pakistan’s Penal Code. This section was originally created in the 1860s to protect all religious faiths and avoid sectarian violence. In recent history, these laws have been used against Christians, non-Muslims and even “offensive” Muslims.

Though Asia Bibi’s case brought discussion of the laws to the forefront, attempts to amend the laws have met stiff resistance. When Punjab governor Salman Taseer spoke in favor of getting rid of the laws, he was shot and killed by his own bodyguard. His killed was put to death earlier this year, and hardliner Muslims declared him a hero. The Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti, was also killed after he expressed opposition to the laws.

Because of the sensitivity of the issue, it came as little surprise when an attorney on Imran’s trial became ill on the same day Imran’s appeal was to be heard in November 2015. It is likely that hardliners used intimidation tactics, as they have done before. It is hard to say how difficult it will be to reschedule a hearing.

Radical Islamists gather

On Easter Sunday this year, more than 10,000 radical Islamists gathered in front of Parliament to agitate in favor of the country’s blasphemy laws. Though the government has publicly stated that they did not concede to any of the demands, Christians, who make up less than 1 percent of the nation, remain hyper aware of the public sentiment about them.

As for Imran, he told family members that he is glad to use his time in prison to study the Word of God. Several years ago, the family told VOM that every day at midnight, Imran prays and sings spiritual songs. Muslim prisoners have even asked for his prayers. Both he and his family are remaining faithful to God and trusting in His will.

Write a letter to encourage Imran at www.prisoneralert.com.

Posted: April 20, 2016

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