Christian Pakistani woman accused of blasphemy asserts innocence, won't flee to protect neighbours from mob

A mob of Muslim men take part in a violent protest against Christians in Pakistan.Reuters

A Christian woman accused of blasphemy has asserted her innocence and declined to leave her home in the Christian Town settlement near Gujrat, Pakistan to protect her neighbours from becoming targets of a mob.

"If I flee, what would happen to my Christian neighbours and their houses?" 23-year-old Sonia Gill said, reports Charisma News.

The accusations against Gill were eventually withdrawn, adds the report.

The accusations stemmed from a complaint by Gill's neighbour, Sharjila Komal, known as "Poma," who claimed that Gill has been using an advertising banner bearing the name of Prophet Muhammad as a floor covering.

But Gill said the banners bore only the names of politicians and that her neighbour had another motive for the accusation.

She said Poma had a grudge against her family after Gill's sister-in-law eloped with Poma's cousin, Khalid. But she added that the matter was settled after the woman returned.

Apparently, Poma saw the banner after she went to Gill's place last May 16 to inform her that her niece's uniform had been stitched and could be picked up anytime, according to the report.

By the evening, an angry mob of 70 people led by Muslim cleric Khubaib Jalali stormed Gill's place.

"It was about 8 p.m. when about 70 people reached our home and demanded that the banner 'bearing sacred Islamic names' be handed over to them. I invited the prominent persons – who were about 18 in number – to come in and inspect the banners they believed bore the sacred name of the Prophet."

After seeing the banners, she said the angry protestors "were not satisfied" and decided to consult among themselves.

Shaukat Gill, who works as a driver in Gujrat, called the police as soon as the mob left the place, fearing that the mob could return and attack them.

Shortly, the police arrived and brought the situation under control. He said the banners, which were examined in the presence of the police, were eventually found not to be blasphemous.

However, a complaint was filed by Jalali against the Gills at the local police station, asking for a case to be registered under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Gill said the situation was very tensed and she was advised by Christians and some Muslims to flee the place.

But she stood firm not to leave, saying "nothing could take place without the will of my God."

Also, she said the angry protestors would have harmed other Christians and their property if she had left.

Pakistan's Express Tribune newspaper meanwhile reported that Sonia Gill had "begged pardon" even though the police said she was "innocent."

The cleric eventually dropped the accusations after Mushtaq Butt, Gills' friend, swore on the Qur'an that the Gills hadn't committed blasphemy and would never do so.

In recent years, dozens of Pakistanis have been murdered and Christian settlements attacked after they were accused of blasphemy. Christians reportedly fled their homes in the wake of the accusations.

A month ago, another Christian was accused of blasphemy in the village of Chak 44, Charisma News reported.

There are at least 150 Christian families who live in Christian Town. The town has three churches.