A Pakistani Christian refugee accused of blasphemy is facing renewed death threats after his location in Thailand was revealed on social media this month. But he and his family continue to face hurdles in their years-long effort for resettlement with no end in sight.
Faraz Pervaiz is again calling on the United Nations, the United States and other foreign countries for help after the address of his family’s Bangkok apartment was posted online July 11, stirring up more death threats and real fear that he could be killed.
The same Muslim nationalist organization that rioted over the acquittal of Christian mother Asia Bibi last year, Tehreek-e-Labbaik, placed a bounty on Pervaiz’s head over a year ago to the tune of about 10 million rupees (about $62,000). The incentive for Pervaiz to be killed was raised in January when a radical cleric who sympathizes with the Taliban placed a bounty of 20 million rupees (about $124,000) on his head.
Pervaiz fled Pakistan in 2014 after Muslim radicals became enraged by videos he and his father posted online criticizing the Pakistani government and Islamic teachings. At the time, he said, there was an increase in disappearances of bloggers critical of the Pakistani government and also an increase in blasphemy charges against such bloggers.
In Pakistan, blasphemy is a crime that is punishable by death or life in prison. Pakistan imprisons more people for blasphemy than all other countries in the world combined, according to Lisa Curtis, director for South and Central Asia at the U.S. National Security Council.
After fleeing the country and facing relative freedom to live out his faith in Bangkok, Pervaiz said that Muslim cleric Abdul Aziz, a known Taliban sympathizer who runs the Lal Masjid mosque in Islamabad, accused him of blasphemy.
Pervaiz said that his name and face were posted on wanted flyers hung up throughout Pakistan.
After pressure from criminal process organizations, a criminal case was registered against Pervaiz and his father in November 2017 in Islamabad.
“This was the first blasphemy case registered by the state itself,” Pervaiz stated. “In the Asia Bibi case, there were some other individuals who were filing the case. Here, the Federal Investigation Agency booked me and my family in blasphemy for openly criticism Islam and the Pakistani establishment.”
“The punishment is severe and an infringement of the most basic human rights to freely practice or not practice religion,” he added. “The reason we are accused of these crimes is because we openly criticized Islam on social media.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith