As generally seems to be the case, all that was needed was a rumor that Saira Khokar burned a Qur’an. That is a handy excuse, since the accusers can claim the evidence was consumed in the fire. The next question for police should be: who has a score to settle with Saira Khokar or her family?
“Christian teacher accused of blasphemy in Lahore,” by Jibran Khan for AsiaNews, February 23:
Lahore (AsiaNews) – After Asia Bibi, another Christian woman has been targeted by Muslim fundamentalists because of allegations of blasphemy. Saira Khokhar, who teaches at the City Foundation School in Lahore, is accused of burning a copy of the Qur’an. However, the case is still shrouded in mystery.
Police took Ms Khokhar into custody and launched an informal investigation. No First Information Report (FIR) has been filed yet, but Christian activists and organisation along with the special adviser to the prime minister on minority affairs, Paul Bhatti, are closely monitoring developments to ensure her safety and rights.
Local sources told AsiaNews that at 9 am a mob from a village not far from the school burst into the building accusing Saira Khokhar of burning Islam’s holy book. The school is run by a Christian NGO, City Foundation. The attackers seized the woman but police prevented them from taking her away.
The local police chief took the Christian teacher into custody to examine whether the case warranted a First Information Report.
Representatives from human rights associations, the Masihi Foundation, the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) and Life for All came to her rescue. Paul Bhatti, brother of Catholic Minority Affairs Minister Shabbaz Bhatti who was slain by extremists on 2 March 2011 for his opposition to the country’s ‘black law’, also came to her defence.
Christian activists plan to monitor the affair to guarantee Saira’s safety and stop any formal charges of burning a copy of the Qur’an from being laid in.
They want to prevent a repeat of the Asia Bibi affair, the 45-year-old mother of five who was sentenced to death on false blasphemy charges. Bibi, who is currently being held in a prison in Punjab, is still waiting for her appeal to be heard after several postponements.
Her appeal may not be heard until 2015. Authorities seem to be half hoping she will die in prison and spare them the awkwardness of making a decision.