Leading Christian defender goes into hiding in Pakistan

Leading Christian defender goes into hiding in Pakistan

One of Pakistan’s leading human rights lawyers who regularly defends Christians accused of blasphemy has been forced into hiding due to death threats.

Sardar Mushtaq Gill, National Director of Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD), a body providing legal aid to religious minorities in Pakistan, has faced numerous threats in the past, but as a high profile case he is involved in came due before the courts, threats increased to the point that he requested protection from the police for him and his family.

When this was not forthcoming, the lawyer felt compelled to go into hiding. The case in question, the so-called ‘kiln murders’ has been handed over to another group, the Farrukh Saif Foundation, which also seeks to gain legal assistance for minorities.

The group said in a statement that Mr Gill had received threats from a number of militant groups and from individuals due to his links to the kiln murder case.

In November 2015, The Irish Catholic conducted an interview with Mr Gill in Dublin, during which he detailed the great difficulty posed in Pakistan in attempting to secure justice for minorities, not least in cases where blasphemy has been alleged. He detailed incidences of intimidation against him and occasions where, as a tactic, his own legal credentials were questioned by colleagues due to the fact that he is a Christian.


When such actions did not suffice, more direct forms of intimidation were employed. His home has been shot at, and, during his Dublin trip, burgled.

More serious, in April 2015, Mr Gill’s brother, Pervaiz, was shot and wounded after he had refused to order his brother to drop yet another blasphemy case.

None of this has, to date deterred the lawyer in his quest for justice, indicating the seriousness of the latest threats. Mr Gill has also provided legal assistance to the high profile Christian prisoner Asia Bibi.

The latest case for Mr Gill, the kiln murders, centres on the fate of Shahzad Masih and his wife Shama, both Christians who were burned alive in a brick kiln in 2014. The murders were allegedly prompted when their employee proved reluctant to pay their wages and instead claimed they had burned pages of the Koran in the kiln. Spurred on by loudspeaker condemnations from local clerics, a mob seized and beat the Masihs, breaking their legs before forcing them into the kiln.

Police called to assist were prevented from approaching the scene by the enraged Muslim mob. Sardar Mushtaq Gill was actively involved in seeking financial restitution for the murdered couple’s relatives.