Until the police arrived, Asif was still being beaten up and, out of fear, confessed that he had burned the pages.”“Mahjoo collects used bottles and sells boiled corn. Asif also collects used bottles. So there was a business rivalry between the two.” Gill said that a year ago, another Christian – Arif Masih – was accused of committing blasphemy. “Arif has a big following, from both Muslims and Christians, who believe he is a faith healer. Arif has also become rich, which has made local Muslim clergy envious. He was absolved of the charge after it could not be proved,” Gill said. “When they were beating up Asif, they pressured him to say that he did it as Arif Masih had asked him, but Asif said he even didn’t know who Arif was.” Asif Masih’s father, Stephan, is a bonded labourer to a local landlord. Almost all local Christians serve as labourers. After Asif’s arrest, they went on strike, reported Gill. “The landlords are against the [Muslim] clergy connection, itself against the Christians, because it hurts [the landlords’] work. So they openly oppose the clergy for wrongly accusing an innocent and chances are that they will give testimony in the court in Asif’s favour,” he said. The Sub-Inspector in charge of the check-post, Parvaiz Gujar, told World Watch Monitor that Masih is 19, not 16. “Asif confessed to the crime when rescued from the mob and we have evidence that he committed the crime,” he said. Talking to a local English-language newspaper, Gujar said: “The police saved him from the enraged mob… His family should be grateful to the police. The mob surrounded the police station but we pacified the protesters with the help of the notables of the area.” A day before this incident, a Pakistani judge had asked Parliament to amend the blasphemy law to “require the same punishment [usually the death penalty] for those who falsely allege blasphemy as for those who commit the crime.” Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court said “it was better to stop exploitation of the law rather than to abolish it”. In a detailed judgement on blasphemous content on social media, Justice Siddiqui also suggested to Parliament that “since blasphemy directly hurt the emotions of the followers of Prophet Muhammad … while registering a [blasphemy] case, the investigation officer should consider adding sub-section (f) and (p) of Section 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997”. Allegations of offences under the terrorism law would only increase the risks to minorities, local sources fear. Exactly five years ago, another Pakistani juvenile, the 14-year-old Rimsha Masih, was falsely accused by a local imam of burning pages from an Islamic textbook. She too had learning difficulties. She was jailed after angry crowds threatened to burn Christian homes in the sector of Islamabad where her family lived. She faced the prospect of being tried as an adult until the court ruled that she was a minor. Her case hit the international news headlines. The case against her collapsed after police were informed that the cleric of the mosque in her area had planted the burned pages on her. Pakistani courts eventually threw out the charges against the girl, but her family had to go into hiding to escape mob justice, before fleeing to Canada after a few weeks. Eventually, the case against the imam was dropped, due to a lack of evidence against him too. Last month another 16-year-old boy was charged with blasphemy, simply for talking with a colleague about his belief in Jesus, the second such incident in a month. A further 16-year-old boy, Nabeel Masih, accused of blasphemy for “liking” and “sharing” a Facebook post which “defamed and disrespected” the Kaaba in Mecca, has continually been refused bail – despite his lawyers’ insistence that, as a child with no prior convictions, he should be released. The post Pakistan: illiterate Christian boy, 16, forced to confess ‘blasphemy’ to escape mob violence appeared first on World Watch Monitor.