On March 08, 2013 near about 06:00PM I was informed about an unpleasant alleged incident of blasphemy in Christian vicinity of Joseph Colony, main bus stand Lari Adha, North of Lahore-Punjab, Pakistan. I was also informed about the registration of Blasphemy case FIR offence under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) registered against a Christian. Keeping in view the sensitivity of the blasphemy incident the SLMP fact-finding team immediately visited the place of occurrence and notes the following facts includes:
Background alleged accused of Blasphemy
The alleged accused was identified as Sawan Masih alias Boodi, aged 35 son of Chaman Masih and resident of Joseph Colony, Noor Road, Badami Bagh, Lahore. He is a Sweeper (sanitary worker) by profession and is a father of three children. Before the alleged incident of blasphemy he was residing with his parents as in joint family. His house locates at the front row of the vicinity of Joseph Colony and he has bad habits of drinking alcohol and is known as drinker.
The relationship between Sawan and the complainant namely Shahid Imran (barber by profession) was cordial with each other and their friendship was known to everyone in the locality. They were good friends since last 8 years and both, together drinking alcohol.
Background blasphemy incident
On March 05, 2013 (Tuesday) near about 07:00PM both Sawan Masih and Shahid Imran were drinking and all of sudden they started quarreling with each other and a scuffle took place between them on the trivial matter. When the neighboring Christian residents noticed their brawl and exchange of abusive language, they intervened and for the time being the uncertain quarrel was arbitrated by the fellow residents. Shahid Imran took grudge in his heart and got annoyed from Sawan Masih. The complainant Shahid Imran also felt ashamed that how as Chura (neglected Christian in the society) and threatened Sawan for dire consequences. The complainant Shahid Imran wanted to give a lesson to Sawan Masih and in this connection he cunningly made a plan with Shafiq Ahmed alias Cheko (newly converted from Christianity into Islam) and implicated Sawan Masih in the false case of blasphemy. Later Shafiq Ahmed and Shahid Imran informed the prayer leader of the area mosque Qari Saifullaha about the false & forged incident of blasphemy.
The first attack
On March 08, 2013 (Friday) near about 04:00PM the prayer leader broadcast false information through the loudspeakers of the mosque. The prayer leader alleged that the accused Sawan Masih has committed blasphemy against prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Following the broadcast thousands of Muslims residents gathered and marched towards Joseph Colony chanted slogans and started throwing stones at the houses of Christians. The countless protestors demanded immediate arrest of Sawan Masih and also attacked on the houses of Christians. The angry protesters also started looting and crushing the households of Christians. In the meanwhile the police reached at the spot and the protester escaped from the place of occurrence. The attack results so many losses including breakdown of snooker table into burning and crushing of households etc. Secondly, the police warned the Christians to vacate their houses immediately. The innocent Christians including women, and Children immediately evacuated their houses wearing single cloths, leavening behind their houses & possessions. However, the Christians were beaten badly and vehicle of a bishop named Akram Gill was damaged inhumanly.
Registration of Blasphemy case FIR
Later, the complainant filed an application and later got registered a blasphemy case FIR No. 112/13 offence 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) registered against Sawan Masih at the Police Station, Badami Bagh, Lahore. The SLMP team found that the alleged accused of blasphemy Sawan Masih was hiding himself from the violent attack whereas the police arrested his father Chaman Masih he was badly beaten by the police. His father totally denied the allegations and later released by the police. Finally, the alleged accused of blasphemy Sawan Masih was handed over to the police.
The second attack
On March 09, 2013 near about 09:30 fully charged mob of almost 4,000 religious zealots gathered around Joseph Colony, led by Shafiq Ahmed, who was in search of the accused Sawan Masih. The heavy contingent of police was deployed near the colony and later, the mob in the presence of the police entered in the colony and started looting and above 200 hundred houses into fires, two churches along with a chapel vandalized and approximately around 500 hundred bibles were burnt, the furniture and other belonging of the school was also burnt. The Christian houses, eight shops, motorcycles, auto rickshaws, electricity meters, gas meters, iron rods used in the roofs were melted town on the floor, furniture, trunks, crockery and many more burnt totally.
The episode of unspeakable violence in the name of religion began at 09:30 in the morning and did not conclude till the afternoon. Interesting point was that the large numbers of police were present on the spot and did not avert the angry protesters for further damage. They executed this exercise freely and without any fears for five hours and the police did not intervene nor stopped the violent mob. Some Christian youth, timely save themselves as they fled from the scene.
Whereas the police ensured us that if the alleged accused will be arrested and made clear to the Christian leadership that the police will not be able to rescue the Christians. Despite all this, the protesters continued to claim that they would not let the Christian families return until Sawan’s arrest. It was clearly shown that the police failed to inform about the arrest and registration of blasphemy case FIR against Sawan Masih to the Muslims. Please note the following of some photos taken during the fact-finding:
I headed the fact-finding along with my colleague Mr. Irfan Barkat (Social Mobilizer), Mrs. Yasmin Irfan, Mrs. Amber Sohail (Women Rights activist) Mr. Nadeem Anthony Advocate (Program Manager SLMP), Mr. Yousaf Kamran, Mr. Shaleem Yousaf, Mr. Asher Manohar, Mr. Kashif Chaudhary, Mr. Shakeel Bhatti, and Mr. Javed Cornelius.
At present the victims immediately need food, clothing, crockery, beddings, clean water, tea, biscuits and medicines etc.
The Christians in Pakistan staged peaceful protest demonstration throughout Pakistan and at some places the police unjustly stopped the protesters and the clash resulted between police and the Christian protesters.
I am sharing this initial report and highlight the significant section of the incident and assuring you that within few days will be able to share the full report.
If you need further clarification please let me know. We gravely need your prayers and support.