A local court in Bahawalpur sentenced a 22-year-old Christian youth to death on blasphemy charges on Tuesday, his family and lawyer confirmed.
Noman Masih was accused of blasphemy for allegedly carrying blasphemous images in his mobile phone, and the First Information Report (FIR) was registered against him under Section 295-C, which has a mandatory death sentence.
While expressing concern over the development, minority rights activist Joseph Jansen said it was disturbing and painful that a young Christian man was sentenced to death. He claimed that a fair investigation was not insured in his case, which led to the judgement of capital punishment.
He emphasised that false accusations of blasphemy against religious minorities are often made to settle personal vendettas, property disputes, religious prejudice, or business rivalries, as seen in various cases, including Mussarat Bibi’s case.
"The complainants and witnesses involved in levelling false allegations against the accused often enjoy impunity," Jansen regretted.
Human rights activist Ilyas Samuel hoped the High Court would set aside the death sentence awarded by Additional Sessions Judge Muhammad Hafeez Ur Rehman Khan and drop all charges against Noman.
Nadia Stephen, a women's rights activist, expressed grief over the verdict, saying the right to a fair investigation should be provided to the accused as this is a matter of one’s life.
Human rights activist Ashiknaz Khokhar said that false blasphemy accusations have massively affected the marginalised community and have ruined the lives of many innocents.
National Minority Alliance of Pakistan Chairperson Lala Robin Daniel stated that the blasphemy accusation is a very sensitive matter, and it is often used to target religious minorities to settle personal scores.
The minority rights activists urged the government to devise a mechanism to curb the misuse of blasphemy laws.