Joseph Colony: Death penalty for man accused of blasphemy

Published: March 28, 2014
The angry mob which destroyed many houses in the Joseph Colony. PHOTO: ABID NAWAZ/ EXPRESS

The angry mob which destroyed many houses in the Joseph Colony. PHOTO: ABID NAWAZ/ EXPRESS


A Christian man was given the death penalty on Thursday on charges of blasphemy. Additional District and Sessions Judge Chaudhry Ghulam Mustafa announced the verdict at the trial held in jail due to security concerns.

Sawan Masih, a resident of Joseph Colony and the father of two, was also fined Rs200,000. The incident of blasphemy was followed by the arson at Joseph Colony, a Christian locality, where more than 200 houses were destroyed in 2013.



Speaking with The Express Tribune, Sawan’s counsel, Advocate Naeem Shakir, said the judge did not consider the mitigating circumstances in Sawan’s case before awarding the maximum punishment. He said an appeal will be filed in the Lahore High Court.

Shakir said there had been a delay of 33 hours in the registration of the FIR after the incident and the prosecution had been unable to account for this delay. Additionally, the FIR did not initially mention any objectionable remarks by Sawan – the remarks, Shakir says, were added eight days after the FIR was registered, through a supplementary statement by the complainant on the police’s advice.

Seven witnesses recorded their statements against Sawan during the trial while two appeared in his favour. In his statement before the court, Sawan said he did not commit any blasphemy and accused Shahid Imran, the complainant in the FIR, and Shafiq Ahmed, who he says have made him the scapegoat in the case.

On March 7, 2013, hundreds of protesters set ablaze more than 200 houses belonging to Christians in Joseph Colony, after Sawan was accused of blasphemy. Three churches were also burnt in the locality. A day before the incident, police forced the Christians to vacate their houses, saying they would also be attacked otherwise.

An FIR was registered under the Anti Terrorism Act against 83 people accused of the arson; a supplementary statement nominated 50 more in the FIR. The case is still pending in the Anti Terrorism Courts.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (28)

  • Alann
    Mar 28, 2014 - 11:12AM

    Blasphemy Law is a good way of getting rid of non-Muslims in Pakistan. The pious Muslims of Pakistan know how to abuse it to its full extent.


  • Feroz
    Mar 28, 2014 - 1:00PM

    Better to file blasphemy charges against all the minorities and get rid of them in one go. Having reduced minorities from 20% to 3% today, the balance job is trivial and should be completed quickly. Not to worry about witnesses as 190 million are available., Recommend

  • Parvez
    Mar 28, 2014 - 1:06PM

    Our legal system is a disgrace.Recommend

  • Mj
    Mar 28, 2014 - 1:19PM

    Our courts are only able to hand out ‘punishments’ to the weak and the innocents, while militants and thugs walk free. This sentence is a travesty of justice.


  • East View
    Mar 28, 2014 - 1:49PM

    Don’t ever point Godhra Incident now – this shows the extent even Pakistanis can go


  • Saad
    Mar 28, 2014 - 2:14PM

    The people in this picture hardly look angry, they’re just there for the fun of it! None of them actually cares about this supposed blasphemy.


  • Hamza
    Mar 28, 2014 - 2:32PM

    How unfair is it that we sentence death to people for their words, yet pardon or overlook people who burn houses .


  • Moiz Omar
    Mar 28, 2014 - 2:33PM

    Blasphemy – a victimless crime. Repeal the blasphemy law and take action against those responsible for the real crime of arson.Recommend

  • adil
    Mar 28, 2014 - 3:28PM

    Death sentence on false allegations & testimonies; yet no punishment for those who destroyed in broad day light the entire Christian colony.Recommend

  • Hu
    Mar 28, 2014 - 3:49PM

    Will there be any convictions against people who took the law into their own hands?
    Being intolerant is the new way to be seen as pious in our society!Recommend

  • Harry
    Mar 28, 2014 - 3:56PM

    What about blasphemy done by those who burnt down churches. They should be hanged to death as well!Recommend

  • notapiousmuslim
    Mar 28, 2014 - 4:48PM

    We should ask ourselves why we are hated all over the world? Why its more difficult for Pakistan to get Visas of western countries? These people responsible for burning down of houses I call them children of shaitan.


  • AK47
    Mar 28, 2014 - 4:50PM

    One more step towards ISLAMIC ONLY Pakistan.


  • Akash
    Mar 28, 2014 - 5:27PM

    Law of land of pure says that if any non Muslim is accused of blasphemy than the one who blamed (Complainant) is free of all the responsibilities with regard to prove the crime of non Muslim AND at the same time who was accused has to prove that he is not guilty.
    AND in reaction Muslims (True Muslims off-course who closely follow the Saudi brand of true Islam) can burn as many churches and temples as they like and they won’t be held responsible as well.


  • asim
    Mar 28, 2014 - 5:28PM

    Death penalty for the weakest of the weak, while terrorists are acquitted and roam free? Pakistan, you are absolutely disgusting.


  • Mar 28, 2014 - 5:44PM

    It is a matter of shame for, the by and large tolerant people of Pakistan, that the abuse of blasphemy law against the minorities showed a rising trend during the previous PPP civilian government and the current PML(N) government. Even in the era of die hard hater of minorities, General Zia, precedents of such a wide range abuse of this law cannot be found. In the government of that dictator the Superior Judiciary granted reliefs in the sentences passed on by the lower courts under this law. It was after the amendment made in the second tenure of Nawaz Sharif government in this law has made its abuse more easy to the utter disadvantage of minorities.


  • Raj - USA
    Mar 28, 2014 - 6:30PM

    What happened to the story I have heard a million times that a lady who used to throw dirt was also loved and her wellbeing cared for?
    Meanwhile the cleric who burnt the holy book to accuse and frame is happily roaming out in the sun but another lady is in solitary confinement for over 5 years because she took water from a well to quench her thirst and offended others.


  • csmann
    Mar 28, 2014 - 6:34PM

    How many of these people in the picture were charged under larceny and destruction of property under Pakistani land.Many are recognizable in the picture if police wants to do it.


  • Pradeep
    Mar 28, 2014 - 7:03PM

    What members of this forum don’t understand is that if the judge had not pronounced the death sentence, he would have been sentenced to death by the raging fundamentalist mob. The judge is just kicking it up to the higher court to do the right thing. In the meantime, the accused will most likely be killed in jail or will in turn convert to Islam. Case closed. And they lived happily ever after.


  • unbelievable
    Mar 28, 2014 - 7:13PM

    Just one more reason to get rid of the blasphemy law which contributes to Pakistan being ranked lower than N Korea by the rest of the World.


  • rohit950723
    Mar 28, 2014 - 8:34PM

    To raise voice against injustice is humanity. The poor christian must be freed immediately. Why all pakistani political leaders are silent?


  • Humanity
    Mar 28, 2014 - 9:17PM

    @Naseer Ahmad: wrote “It is a matter of shame for, the by and large tolerant people of Pakistan, that the abuse of blasphemy law against the minorities showed a rising trend”

    Blasphemy law is the real shame and an utter insult to human intelligence. It’s abuse is but certain.

    Pakistan could not have chosen a worse and more painful punishment for herself in the form of blasphemy law, when she set out to transgress into the divine realms and constitutionalized decrees that are the prerogative of the Master of the day of judgement.

    There is no escape from the hisaab kitaab of karma.


  • 3rdRockFromTheSun
    Mar 28, 2014 - 10:03PM

    Justice and peace in the land of the pure! Way to go!


  • Imran Ahmed
    Mar 28, 2014 - 11:05PM

    This news is sickening.


  • expaki
    Mar 29, 2014 - 6:11PM

    @Raj – USA: “that a lady who used to throw dirt was also loved and her well being” and you Raj sahib, believe that STORY?

    @ET sad to read about attack of FANATICS on your people.
    PLS have a courage to publish it. Thank you.Recommend

  • Murthy
    Mar 29, 2014 - 8:41PM

    Pakistan continues to march backwards and, at this rate, can soon reach the middle ages. Best wishes!Recommend

  • amir jafri
    Mar 29, 2014 - 8:45PM

    Blasphemy law is a BRITISH Law imposed upon INdia and Pakistan..still holding ENGLISH COMMON LAW to their enslaved breasts….GET rid of english common law in our constituition…Ddoes any nation has an alien legal system..ONLY Slaves, english-speaking riffraff speak slave=lingo and lwas…

    Be like Iran where the Western thugs and their languages are looked down upon and humiliated everyday.Recommend

  • truthbetold
    Mar 29, 2014 - 11:15PM

    @amir jafri:

    “Blasphemy law is a BRITISH Law imposed upon INdia and Pakistan..still holding ENGLISH COMMON LAW to their enslaved breasts….GET rid of english common law in our constituition…”

    Blaming the English for this is sheer hypocrisy. If you want Pakistan to move into the rational, civilized and progressive 22nd century, what you need to do is not “getting rid of English common law”, but you need to rewrite the constitution to remove all connections with religion and state.

    By the way, you want to get rid of English law and institute Islamic laws in its place? Do you know where the laws on death for apostasy, blasphemy, stoning to death for adultery… all come from? Clue, it is not English law. Recommend

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