The nurses were accused of “defiling the Koran”. A Muslim co-worker attacked one of them with a knife. Nurse Mariam Lal and student nurse Navish Arooj were charged under Section 295-B of Pakistan’s blasphemy statutes against “defiling the Koran” after an Islamist mob demanded “death to blasphemers” inside Civil Hospital, their attorney said.
Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - Two Christian nurses, Mariam Lal and Nehwish Urooj, have been accused of blasphemy at the civil hospital in Faisalabad (Punjiab). One of them, Mariam Lal, was in danger of being killed by a hospital employee, and was injured. According to the accusation, they removed a sticker (an adhesive label) from a cupboard on which the typical phrase for Muhammad was written, "peace be upon him".
Such stickers are found everywhere in Pakistan (walls, furniture, computers, ...), as a sign of devotion. According to Mariam Lal, on 8 April around midnight, the head nurse Rukhsana asked her to clean up her cupboard. Mariam Lal also removed the sticker and handed it to Rukhsana before finishing the shift and returning home.
Yesterday, April 9, Rukhsana herself accused Mariam Lal in front of other Muslim colleagues of having desecrated the sticker that contained words from the Koran.
Waqar, a Muslim who works in the hospital's pharmacy, after hearing about the incident, attacked Mariam Lal with a knife, wanting to kill her for blasphemy, but he only managed to wound her in the arm. Waqar said he would also be willing to die and kill anyone in the name of Muhammad.
Yesterday afternoon, Mirza Muhammad Ali, deputy superintendent of the hospital district drew up a first complaint (n.347 / 21) in which he states that on April 8 Mariam asked Nehwish to remove the sticker, which she delivered to Mariam. Chief nurse Rukhsana would have seen Mariam take the sticker in her hand and hide it.
After that, Rukhsana told health inspector Faisal Yaqoob about the incident. The commission of inquiry he set up came to the conclusion that Mariam and Nehwish are both guilty and called the police, also handing over the desecrated object.
For Junaid Pervaiz Ghori, a human rights activist, this is yet another case of blasphemy in which "personal interests or illegal intentions" are hidden. He advises all Christians not to take or remove any page, any verse, any part of the Islamic calendar because such a gesture can lead to chaos.
The blasphemy law is a legacy of the British colonial period. Originally it served to defend religious sentiments. But during the 1980s, the law was expanded and is now often used to attack personal enemies and minorities. Dozens of people have been killed on charges of blasphemy, a crime that is punishable by a death sentence.
One of the best-known cases of blasphemy was that of Asia Bibi, the Christian woman, declared innocent in 2018 who, falsely accused, spent more than eight years on death row. Recently, a Muslim accused of blasphemy was killed by a so-called vigilante.
Naveed Walter, president of Human Rights Focus Pakistan, calls for the blasphemy law to be cancelled and all false accusations stopped. He says that even in the case of the two nurses it is understood that the accusations arise from personal disagreements, conflicts in the workplace and in the communities. Naveed Walter is calling on the authorities to break the silence on this issue and take steps to end this practice that weighs on minorities.
The Bishop of Faisalabad, Msgr. Indrias Rehmat told AsiaNews that he had met with high-ranking police officers. "They assured us that they will take the case to heart and that no innocent will be punished, while they try their best to calm the city."
Bishop Rehmat also suggested that the government change the blasphemy law because there are now too many cases in which the accusations are made up for personal purposes or hidden interests.
The video below is the testimony of Waqar, the pharmacist clerk, who attacked Mariam with a knife. In the video he says he wanted to kill them both, but his knife was broken. In his testimony he takes pride in his position and states that he would have killed the two nurses out of respect and love for the prophet.