By Jawad Mazhar, Worthy News Special Correspondent reporting from Pakistan
PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN (Worthy News)-- A high-ranking Pakistani politician, who negotiated the release of kidnapped Christians and fought against controversial blasphemy laws, says he and his family are in life danger after receiving threatening phone calls from suspected Islamic militants.
Yousaf George, the secretary-general of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party’ in Pakistan's violent Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, told Worthy News and its partner agency BosNewsLife that he has been "hurled with death threats" by at least one anonymous caller.
"He also said that if I keep fighting for the nullification of blasphemy legislation and other discriminatory laws he would abduct my female siblings and treat them as sex slaves and then kill them," added George, who is also a provincial youth leader of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, a grouping of minority parties.
George feared Saturday, July 17, for the future of his friends and family who he said also received phone calls from the man. He said the caller had been "swearing" to carry out his threats and recited an Islamic prayer.
"My mother Inayat Begum, elder brother Younas Tabasum and my wife Laika Younas, daughter Phool Younas, son Waqar Younas and youngest daughter Mehak Younas are in grave danger of being murdered or implicated in blasphemy cases," George explained in an interview in the provincial capital Peshawar.
George linked the threats to militants who briefly kidnapped a Christian family 18 months ago at gunpoint in the Barra Agency area along the Afghan border. "Due to my hectic efforts, the Christian hostages were safely released by the suspected Islamic militants within 12 hours." However, he said, the same group "now wants to halt my struggle for the repeal of all controversial laws including blasphemy legislation."
Under Pakistan's blasphemy laws a man can potentially face execution if his insult to Islam amounts to apostasy, or turning away from Islam, while a woman generally faces life imprisonment.
Yousaf George said that despite the death threats he would continue his political fight against the laws. "I will continue till my last breath or the last drop of blood in my body to repeal laws that hang as a sword of death over the heads of religious minorities in Pakistan."
Local police declined to investigate the case, despite being provided with a recording of a threatening call and a phone number, George said. Police reportedly said it was up to higher authorities to detain suspects.
Pakistan's government has made clear however it wants to crackdown on Islamic militants in the province.
The alleged death threats against George come at a time when churches say Islamic militants increasingly target devoted Christians in Pakistan. In one of the latest known violent incidents, suspected Islamic militants reportedly fired bullets into the car of a Christian evangelist, Kamran Pervaiz, on June 25 in Punjab province.
Pervaiz, who survived the attack without injuries, said he and his team were targeted for their involvement in what he described as a "Christian revival meeting" near the town of Faisalabad.
Police have so far refused to investigate the case, saying higher authorities are responsible for finding the suspects.
Local police have been accused by Christians of indirectly supporting attacks against Christians, including in the Punjab town of Gujrat where police detained two young Christian men after shots fired into the air by a drunken man killed a neighbor.
Saleem Masih, 22, and John Masih, 23, were falsely accused of robbery as well as murder, a later police investigation found, and they were released, local Christians said.
Pakistan is under international pressure to improve rights of minority Christians, who comprise less than five percent of the country's over 177 million people. (With additional reporting and editing by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos).