LAHORE  - A large number of Christians from Youhanabad and adjacent localities on Sunday held a peaceful demonstration against the misuse of the country’s blasphemy laws. The protesters led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) minorities leaders Rufus Solomon and Asif Sohail Khokhar demonstrated against the blatant misuse of the blasphemy laws especially against the minority Christian community.

Addressing the protesters, Rufus Solomon said that the recent death sentences awarded to Sawan Masih, the central character of a blasphemy case which resulted in the riots at Lahore’s Joseph Colony in March last year, and Shafqat and Shagufta Emmanuel over alleged blasphemous text messages sent to local Muslims in Gojra, had shocked the Christians and Muslims alike. “It’s a pity that these three people were convicted even though there was no concrete evidence against them. We strongly protest the blatant misuse of blasphemy laws to target the minority communities to settle personal scores and vendettas,” he said, adding that it had been observed that in most cases the judges were pressurised by local clerics and vigilante groups into convicting innocent people.

He said that the Christians unanimously demanded that the High Court should review the verdicts in light of evidence against the accused and deliver justice to them. The PTI minorities’ leader also lashed out at the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, saying that persecution of minorities had always spiked whenever the PML-N came into power.

“Christians are being persecuted under the blasphemy laws while there has been an increase in attacks on Hindu temples in Sindh. We demand the PML-N and PPP governments in Punjab and Sindh, respectively, to ensure protection of minorities in their provinces,” he said.

Addressing the protesters, Asif Sohail Khokhar said that it was an open secret that the blasphemy laws were being misused against minorities and the majority Muslims alike. “We are not demanding a repeal of the laws but the government must ensure that no innocent person is victimised through the misuse of these laws,” he said.

Others who spoke on the occasion included Pervaiz Alam, Sadiq John and Malik Jahangir. The protesters dispersed peacefully after registering their concerns.