A Christian pastor in Pakistan has been sentenced to life in prison for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages.
Many Christian non-governmental organizations in the area believe that the decision to prosecute Zafar Bhatti, 51, is due to an Islamic bias that has overtaken their country.
British Pakistani Christian Association reporter Shamim Masih said, “The blasphemy law is continuously misused to settle personal scores but also by Islamic zealots intent on annihilating Christians from Pakistan who now make up 15 percent of all allegations, a percentage that is increasing. When people lay false charges against Christians who are later exonerated no action is taken by the government of Pakistan to intervene on behalf of the victims by prosecuting those who laid false allegations. This impunity has exacerbated the situation.”
Critics claim that there is no evidence that Bhatti sent the texts from his phone, with several reports proving that the SIM was not registered to Bhatti, but to a different Computerized National Identity card holder.
Bhatti has been imprisoned since July 2012 where he has faced several attempts on his life including a poisoning which left him bleeding from his nose and mouth, and in critical condition for days. He was also the target of a thwarted attempt by a jail guard to assassinate all inmates accused of blasphemy against Islam, although another inmate was killed in the incident.
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:
“Zafar Bhatti has now been incarcerated for nearly five years for a crime he ostensibly did not commit. He is being convicted for a text message on a phone that was not his in a crime that for all intents and purposes was fabricated to remove him from his role as a pastor. That unjust draconian laws can be used in this fashion to wreak havoc on the lives of Christians and other minorities in Pakistan is a disgrace for the nation of Pakistan.”
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