They scream over ice cream

Pakistan | Argument with an ice-cream man gives rise to blasphemy charges and lands two Pakistani Christians in prison. Why does this American ally in the war on terror continue to terrorize non-Muslims?

Issue: "Bureaucratic burial," June 29, 2002

The attack outside the U.S. consulate in Karachi again focused attention on Pakistan's internal insecurity-something Christian worshippers in Islamabad have not been able to forget.

Ten weeks after a deadly attack on the International Protestant Church in Pakistan's capital city, the last of the critically wounded was finally released from the hospital. Dr. Christy Munir was discharged from an Islamabad hospital on June 4. A Sunday morning attack killed four (not including the unknown attacker), including American embassy officer Barbara Green and her 17-year-old daughter Kristen Wormsley. Grenades lobbed into the worship service wounded 40, including Mrs. Green's husband Milton, also a U.S. embassy employee, and the couple's son Zack.

Edward Good, father of Pakistani victim Reeba Good, suffered multiple wounds and numerous bone fractures, which led to the amputation of his right leg. Mr. Good spent 22 days in the hospital. His son Arshid also suffered a broken leg in the attack. Government officials, Mr. Good says, "have given us nothing for the victims or the injured."

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Nor has the violence prompted government officials to retract the controversial blasphemy law. Compass Direct reports that a Pakistani Muslim convicted of religious blasphemy was shot dead by a fellow prisoner on June 11 in Lahore's Kot Lakhpat Central Jail. Prison authorities were transferring Yousaf Ali from his death-row cell when a convicted murderer identified only as Tariq killed him. Witnesses said the murder looked like an inside set-up requiring prison cooperation-a new tactic of the extremist Muslim lobby that could also be used against Christians held on blasphemy charges.

Two Christian brothers await a final verdict after they were convicted of blasphemy for arguing with a Muslim vendor over ice-cream bowls. Both were given 35-year prison terms, instead of the normal death sentences, for "blasphemy against Islam and its prophet Muhammad" during an exchange with the ice-cream man. Their appeal, expected before the Lahore High Court, has been on hold since June 1999.


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