Christian families flee village in Pakistan after teen receives death threats over alleged blasphemy

(Reuters/Fayaz Aziz)People demonstrate after the killing of Mashal Khan, accused of blasphemy, by a mob at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, during a protest in Peshawar, Pakistan April 14, 2017.

Five Christian families have reportedly fled a village in rural Pakistan after a teenager who has been accused of blasphemy against Islam received death threats.

According to World Watch Monitor, the families, who were the only Christians in the remote village of Sukheki, went into hiding on Friday after a Facebook page posted a photo of the accused teen, Sonu Arshad.

The Facebook page, which reportedly used the logo of a local TV channel, asked locals to "burn his church and give him the death penalty."

A mob has reportedly formed after the local Muslim community's Friday prayers, but the chief of police in the nearby city of Daska said that the situation is now "under control." The police chief further noted that a case has been filed against the unidentified people who were responsible for creating the fake Facebook page.

"There is no evidence that Arshad committed any crime," Tahir Hussain told World Watch Monitor. "This is a fake campaign and the case has been forwarded to the Federal Investigation Agency to identify those who made this fake Facebook page," he continued.

Local Christian councilor Naseer Ghulam said that he had "no knowledge where the family has gone," and added that no one knows the reason for accusing the teen of blasphemy.

Christian groups working in Pakistan have long complained that the country's blasphemy laws are often used by accusers as a way to take revenge and to settle petty personal disputes. Such laws have been used disproportionately against religious minorities, with over a quarter of 702 cases registered between 1990 and 2014 were against Christians, who make up only 1.5 percent of the country's population.

Last week, a 70-year-old Christian who was accused of blasphemy suddenly died before he had the chance to face trial in court.

Mukhtar Masih, who was out on bail, died on Nov. 2 at Bagh Christian Hospital in Mansehra in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, where he was taken after he complained of a pain in the abdomen.

He was accused of pinning a letter containing blasphemous messages to the door of a mosque in the village of Lambanwali, but he had denied the allegations saying no Christian in Pakistan would be foolish enough to take such a risk with his life.

Masih urged the police to examine the writing on the said letter, but they reportedly ignored his request.

Last week, Pakistan's Federal Minister of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony stated that the country's controversial blasphemy law "cannot be revoked."

At least 67 murders have been committed in Pakistan over unproven allegations of blasphemy since 1990, according to figures from a research center and independent records kept by Reuters.

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