Ashfaq Masih

Name: Ashfaq Masih

Country/Area of Origin: Lahore, Pakistan

Background: Masih is a Pentecostal Christian mechanic and the owner of a bicycle repair shop in Lahore, Pakistan.

Reason for Arrest:

In 2017, Masih served a Muslim customer who then refused to pay the bicycle repair charges in full amount on account that he was a “poor sadhu (religious devotee)”; the customer insisted that because he was a “devotee of Muslim sufis and saints”, Masih should be obliged to provide the service free of charge. Masih denied this request, stating that he himself was a follower of Jesus, that he was not interested in discounting the service because the customer is Muslim, and that he was also a poor man and therefore needed payment for his work.

In response, the customer was angry and a crowd gathered and began to accuse Masih of disrespecting the Prophet by allegedly telling the customer that “Christians believe Jesus was the final prophet”. Upon arrival, local Pakistani authorities detained Masih and charged him with blasphemy. Since his arrest in 2017, Masih has been detained at Camp Jail, Lahore.

During his most recent court trial – after numerous postpones – Masih testified that “he was framed on false charges by the complainant in the case, Muhammad Irfan, the landlord of his shop, and Muhammad Naveed, who runs a nearby bicycle and motorbike repair shop. Masih told the court that Naveed was jealous of his success, and had tried twice before to pick a fight with him over clients and nurtured a grudge”.

Masih’s attorney Riaz Anjum has reported that the complainant had not even appeared in court to testify.

Latest Updates:

  • Masih’s brother Mehmood has reported that his family has hired former Pakistani Bar Council Vice Chairman Abid Saqi to appeal the sentence and hope for charges to be dropped
  • On 4 July 2022, Lahore, Pakistan Sessions Court Judge Khalid Wazir officially convicted Masih of blasphemy and sentenced him to death. Below are responses to this verdict:
    • “The sudden judgement stunned me and I didn’t know what to do. I hardly gathered myself and came out of the courtroom and started crying as it was the end of the world for me. I rushed home and informed my family. My wife and children also started crying. As the news spread my relatives started visiting to console us, but it was not easy for me as Ashfaq is my only brother and I love him very much.” – Masih’s brother Mehmood
    • “I’m extremely disappointed by Masih’s conviction. We have assured the family that we will support them in courts and all other forums till the release of their loved one.” Sajid Christopher, Human Friends Organization
    • “I don’t remember any case where the lower court decided to grant bail or freed anyone accused of the blasphemy law. The judges are aware that such cases are made to punish and settle personal grudges with the opponents, especially against the Christians. Because of pressure from the Islamic groups, lower courts’ judges are always hesitant to free the victims but make popular decisions to save their skin and shift their burden to the high court. He [Masih] is innocent and has already spent five years in prison for a crime he never committed.” Nasir Saeed, Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement United Kingdom (CLAAS-UK)