A Catholic family in Pakistan has fled their home fearing attack by local Islamists after their eldest son was arrested on blasphemy charges on July 13.
“We left the city same evening the clerics captured him,” Shfaaqt Masih told ucanews.com. “I switched off my phone fearing they will trace my family.”
Shfaaqt, whose name Masih is not a surname but identifies him as a Christian male, said that local police station will not tell them where 16-year-old Shahzad is currently being held.
“My relatives even visited the jail but he is not there. We don’t know what to do,” he said.
The father of four has been hiding since Shahzad was taken into custody for allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed, a crime that carries a mandatory death sentence in Pakistan.
Shfaaqt, a builder, is liaising with his parish priest in the hope to somehow resolve the situation. “We are poor people and I am out of work now. The clerics did not listen to our please; they will kill my son,” he said.
Shahzad worked as a sweeper in a hospital of Dinga City, Punjab province, where a Muslim shopkeeper accused him of blasphemy. He was later taken to a madrassa by activists from the Islamist party Tehreek-e-Tuhafaz Islam Pakistan and was then arrested by the police.
More than 50 party activists later protested in front of the police station.
Dinga has a population of about 80,000 people of whom 150 are Christians who live in a Christian colony near the city’s railway station.
In response to the allegations, an X-marked photo of Shahzad is now being shared on social media captioned laanat (shame).
Raja Nadeem Ahmad, the main complainant of the blasphemy allegation, said Shahzad said abusive things about the Prophet Mohammed.
“We brought him to my shop and he repeated the same insulting remarks … he has hurt our feelings and tried to disrupt the peace in the area,” stated Ahmad in the first information report made with the police.
Ghazi Saqib Shakeel Jalali, from Tehreek-e-Tuhafaz Islam Pakistan said, “We will not forgive even if the court releases him. We are not cowards.”