A Christian widow and a Muslim gardener were arrested in Pakistan this month on blasphemy charges after they were accused of intentionally burning papers containing koranic verses, Morning Star News reported.
The accusations arose when 46-year-old Mussarat Bibi and the Muslim, Muhammad Sarmad, were cleaning the storeroom of the Government Girls Higher Secondary School in Punjab Province on April 15, attorney Javed Sahotra said.
“Both workers were told to clean the storeroom that was filled with paper and other scrapped items,” Sahotra said. “It has been alleged that they gathered the wasted paper and other scrap in a corner of the school and set them on fire. Some students later noticed that the burnt items also contained holy pages.”
Blasphemy laws, intent
School staff members, including principal Nasreen Saeed, were aware that Bibi and Sarmad had not burned Koranic pages intentionally; under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, intent must be proven, Sahotra said. Some students and teachers protested, but the principal and senior staff members tried to quell the protests.
Rights groups say hundreds of people are languishing in prison accused of blasphemy as judges delay trials, fearing retribution against themselves.
Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.