11/22/2021 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) –
According to Morning Star News, two Christian nurses accused of blasphemy in Pakistan received bail and were released from prison in September. The decision was kept secret for almost two months to avoid backlash from Islamists, including the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan political party.
On September 23, Mariam Lal and Nawish Arooj were granted bail by a sessions court in Faisalabad. Those charged with blasphemy in Pakistan usually languish in jail for years until the appeals process is exhausted.
“This is an unprecedented decision by any sessions court in a blasphemy case,” attorney Atif Jamil Paggan told Morning Star News. Paggan added the bail decision was kept secret due to concerns over possible reprisals by extremists.
On April 9, Lal and Arooj, two Christian nurses working at Civil Hospital in Faisalabad, were falsely accused of committing blasphemy. Local sources report Lal was directed to remove old wall hangings and stickers from a wall by Rukhsana, a senior nurse at the hospital. Following Rukhsana’s instructions, Lal removed the wall-hangings and stickers.
Rukhsana, who reportedly held a grudge against Lal, provoked other Muslim staffers at Civil Hospital by claiming Lal desecrated wall hangings that contained Quranic verses. In response, a Muslim staffer at the hospital’s pharmacy, named Waqas, attacked Lal with a knife as she was attending a patient in the hospital’s medical ward. Lal received several injuries to her arm but survived the attack.
News of the false blasphemy allegation against Lal spread to the broader community and a mob of enraged Muslims staged a protest outside of Civil Hospital. Members of the mob demanded Lal be arrested and hanged for committing blasphemy.
Police registered a First Information Report (FIR # 347/21) in connection with the allegation. According to the FIR, Lal and Arooj were both accused of violating Pakistan’s blasphemy laws under Section 295-B.
“Both women are currently in a safe location,” Paggan told Morning Star News. “They are very happy and relieved after this court victory, and we are optimistic that the court will absolve them of the charge once the trial concludes.”
In Pakistan, false accusations of blasphemy are widespread 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.