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Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Punjab: young Christian man accused of blasphemy killed in prison

by Fareed Khan

Fanish, 20, was arrested last Saturday. His death was “judicial murder” according to human rights activist. The day before a Muslim mob attacked members of the dead man’s Christian community, setting fire to their church. Pakistani extremists are funded by Saudi “charities.”

Sialkot (AsiaNews) – The young Christian man who was arrested on 12 September in a village in Punjab accused of blasphemy was killed last night in prison. Police had Fanish, 20, remanded into their custody in order to continue their investigation. This morning prison guards in Sialkot district prison found the lifeless body of the young man with visible signs of injuries.

For Nadeem Anthony, member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), his death was judicial murder. Condemning in the strongest terms the latest anti-Christian outrage, the activist told AsiaNews that for police the young committed suicide by hanging himself in jail, something that for him does not make sense. Instead, “it is a torture killing” because “we can see signs of torture on his body in the picture.”

AsiaNews also received photos of the lifeless body. In it the type of injuries that can be seen appear unrelated to strangulation by hanging.

The body is at the disposal of the legal authority, which has ordered an autopsy at Sialkot’s Civil Hospital.

Fanish (pictured in prison) was arrested last Saturday after accusations of blasphemy were made against him. A day earlier a Muslim mob had gathered in front of the church in the village of Jaithikey, not far from the town of Samberial, in the district of Sialkot (Punjab), to teach the local Christian community a “lesson”.

Extremists damaged the building before setting it on fire. They also pillaged two homes near the church.

A relationship between the 20-year-old Christian man and a young Muslim woman appears to be the cause of the turn of events.

Fanish was accused of provoking the young woman and of throwing away a copy of the Qur‘an she had in her hands.

Fr Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Church, said that “Muslims cannot stand the idea that a Muslim woman might fall in love with a Christian.”

Yesterday the NCJP expressed “grave concern’ over the rising tide of violence against religious minorities, all in the name of the blasphemy law.

For Catholic activists, urgent government measures are need. It is increasingly clear that profanations of the Qur‘an are just excuses used to attack non-Muslims, who are increasingly victimised and persecuted by Islamic fundamentalists.

In another incident, also last Saturday but reported only today, a Christian settlement in Ghaziabad, a neighbourhood in Orangi Town, near Karachi (Sindh), was attacked by a mob of Muslims, enraged by blasphemy charges against a 40-year-old Christian man called Lawrence.

After repeatedly attacking the man’s house with stones and rocks, the mob attacked local Christians and tried to storm the local Catholic Church. Only a quick intervention by police prevented a blood bath. Still police arrested Lawrence’s nephew, Shahkeel. The accused man went into hiding.

Violence action by Pakistani Islamists is funded by foreign jihadist organisations. In fact, the Arab Herald recently reported that a Saudi charity gave 15 million dollars to a pro al-Qaeda militant organisation.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is said to be preparing to strike Punjab’s main cities.

In conjunction with the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), the TTP is also planning to attack Pakistani Shiites.

Sources told AsiaNews that the al-Qaeda-linked SSP was involved in the anti-Christian attacks in Gojra where several people were killed.

The Al-Haramain Foundation, an organisation banned by the UN Security Council for its links to al-Qaeda, reportedly funded the attacks.


پولیس کی حراست میں مسیحی نوجوان ہلاک


فالش مسیح نے اپنی شلوار کے ازار بند کو جنگلے سے باندھ کر پھانسی کا پھندا بنایا: پولیس

ضلع سیالکوٹ کی جیل میں قید وہ مسیحی نوجوان پراسرار حالات میں ہلاک ہوگیا ہے جسے سمبڑیال میں مسلمان اور مسیحی افراد کے درمیان کشیدگی کے بعدگرفتار کیا گیا تھا۔

جیل انتظامیہ نے اس ہلاکت کو خودکشی قرار دیا ہے جبکہ چند مسیحی رہنماؤں نے اسے مذہبی بنیادوں پر ہونے والا قتل قرار دیا ہے۔

سمبڑیال کے نواحی گاؤں ’جیٹھیکے‘ میں گزشتہ ہفتے مشتعل مسلمانوں نے ایک گرجا گھر نذرآتش کردیا تھا۔ پولیس کا کہنا تھا کہ کشیدگی مدرسے سے لوٹنے والی ایک نوجوان مسلمان لڑکی سے مبینہ چھیڑخوانی اور اس کے سپارے کی بے حرمتی کی وجہ سے پیدا ہوئی تھی۔

متوفی فالش مسیح چھیڑخوانی اور قرآن پاک کی مبینہ بےحرمتی کے واقعہ میں نامزد واحد ملزم تھا۔ مقامی میڈیا کے نمائندوں کے مطابق پولیس نے اس کے بدلے اس کے والد کو حراست میں لیا تو انہیں چھڑانے کے لیے وہ ازخود تھانے پیش ہوگیا تھا۔

پولیس نے اسے اگلے ہی روز عدالتی تحویل میں جیل بھیجوادیا تھا جہاں اسے ایک علیحدہ سیکورٹی سیل میں رکھاگیا تھا۔ ڈسٹرکٹ جیل سیالکوٹ کے ڈپٹی سپرنٹنڈنٹ پولیس اشتیاق احمد نے بتایا جیل کے اس ایک الگ بلاک میں کل دس سیکورٹی سیل ہیں جو مذہبی نوعیت کے مقدمات میں ملوث قیدیوں کےلیےمخصوص کیےگئے ہیں تاکہ انہیں دوسرے قیدیوں کے اشتعال سے بچایا جاسکے۔

ڈسٹرکٹ جیل کے اس سیکورٹی بلاک میں اس روز پانچ قیدی تھے جن میں دو احمدیہ جماعت کے کارکن، دو توہین قرآن پاک اور ایک توہین رسالت کےمقدمے میں ملوث تھے۔ اس بلاک پر ایک جیل اہلکار ڈیوٹی پر ہوتا ہے۔

فالش مسیح نے خودکشی نہیں کی بلکہ یہ ایک’ مذہبی قتل‘ ہے۔ اسے پولیس اور جیل اہلکاروں کی مبینہ ملی بھگت کے بعد مارا گیا ہے اور ان کی تنظیم اس قتل کے مقدمے کی پیروی کرے گی۔

پاکستان مسیحی اتحاد

جیل حکام کا کہنا ہے کہ وہ سرکاری اہلکار صفائی والے کو بلانےگیا اور جب واپس آیا تو اس نے فالش مسیح کی لاش پھندے سےلٹکتی پائی۔ جیل اہلکار کےمطابق اس کی اپنی شلوار کے ازار بند کو جنگلے سے باندھ کر پھانسی کا پھندا بنایا گیا تھا۔ ڈی ایس پی جیل خانہ جات کا کہنا ہے کہ یہ خودکشی کا واقعہ ہے۔

مقامی سپیشل مجسٹریٹ ابوبکر صدیق اور ڈسٹرکٹ پولیس آفیسر نے جائے وقوعہ کا معائنہ کیا۔ جیل اور پولیس حکام مسیحیوں کے نمائندوں اور چند مذہبی رہنماؤں کو بھی جائےوقوعہ پر لے کرگئے ہیں تاکہ وہ حالات کا اپنے طور پرجائزہ لے سکیں۔

پاکستان مسیحی اتحاد کے صدر ایمنوئیل اطہرجولیس نے کہا ہے کہ فالش مسیح نے خودکشی نہیں کی بلکہ یہ ایک’ مذہبی قتل‘ ہے۔ انہوں نے بی بی سی سے ٹیلی فون پر گفتگو کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ اسے پولیس اور جیل اہلکاروں کی مبینہ ملی بھگت کے بعد مارا گیا ہے اور ان کی تنظیم اس قتل کے مقدمے کی پیروی کرے گی۔ ایمنوئیل ان مذہبی رہنماؤں میں شامل نہیں ہیں جنہوں نے جیل کا دورہ کیا تھا۔

انہوں نے چیف جسٹس لاہورہائی کورٹ سے اپیل کی ہے کہ وہ اس معاملے کی انکوائری کروائیں اور میڈیکل بورڈ فالش مسیح کی لاش کا پوسٹ مارٹم کرے۔

واضح رہے کہ سمبڑیال پولیس نے چرچ جلائے جانے والے واقعہ کا نہ تو کوئی مقدمہ درج کیا ہے اور نہ ہی کسی مسلمان کوگرفتار کیاگیا۔ واحد مقدمہ فالش مسیحی کےخلاف توہین قرآن پاک کا درج ہوا تھا اور واحد باقاعدہ گرفتاری بھی اسی کی عمل میں آئی تھی۔

وزیر اعلٰی پنجاب شہباز شریف چرچ جلائے جانے کے واقعہ کی جوڈیشل انکوائری کا حکم دے چکے ہیں۔ سمبڑیال کے ڈپٹی سپرنٹنڈنٹ پولیس طارق محمود چیمہ کا کہنا ہے کہ ضلعی پولیس ایک دو روز میں ڈسٹرکٹ سیشن جج کو ایک خط ارسال کردے گی جس میں چرچ جلائے جانے کے واقعہ کی تحقیقات کے لیے جوڈیشل افسر مقرر کرنے کی سفارش کی جائے گی۔


Lack of prosecution to encourage attacks on minorities: HRCP

ISLAMABAD: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) raised concern on Monday that vigilante attacks were increasing against religious minorities in Pakistan after a church in Sialkot was attacked last week, almost a month after an angry mob killed seven Christians in Gojra.

About 100 people, mostly youths, attacked a church in Sambrial area of Sialkot district on Friday after accusing a Christian man of desecrating the holy Quran, police said.

"They set fire to prayer mats and some religious books but the timely arrival of police prevented the situation from taking an ugly turn," local police official Rafaqat Ali told AFP.

Police arrested a man accused of "snatching and desecrating" a copy of the holy Quran from a girl while she was going to school, he added.

Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti visited the area on Monday and vowed that the government would "reconstruct" the church.

The HRCP statement said: "It is unfortunate that our fears of recurrence of such violence again proved to be true in Sambrial," said the rights group.

The HRCP demanded the government prosecute those responsible and act to prevent such violence. “Effective prosecution would serve as a deterrent to future attacks, while a lack thereof would encourage impunity.” staff report/afp

Death of blasphemy accused

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan chairwoman, Ms Asma Jahangir, has called on the government to take notice of the death in custody of a Christian accused of blasphemy in Sialkot. Fanish Masih, 25, was arrested to satisfy the blood lust of the mob in Sambrial that had attacked and burned a church in a Sambrial village.

The district jail superintendent explained the death: “Masih, being accused of blasphemy, was put in a separate cell where he committed suicide by using a string”. So much for procedure. Knowing full well that the boy was framed, he was treated as an ordinary death-row prisoner. He was also probably also treated shabbily, which may have forced him to lose hope.

People who are treated by the state as pariahs are losing hope. Punjab’s Minister for Minority Affairs, Mr Kamran Michael, says the police in Sialkot mishandled the case: “I have seen the body and there were torture marks on it”. The local Christians are now scared to death about their own future, and claim Masih was “tortured to death by the jail staff”. This has happened before.

Christians killed in the name of Islam never get justice. The only way an accused can be saved is to bundle him out of the country after releasing him on bail. The Muslims of Pakistan are killed like flies by the Taliban warlords and Al Qaeda. Instead of uniting against the curse of Muslim-kills-Muslim they turn around and target the most impoverished community among the minorities of Pakistan.

The latest death has burdened the conscience of Pakistan with one more collective crime. The state, forewarned, has instead relied on its old reflex of looking away and letting an innocent man die. (Daily Times)

analysis: To kill with impunity —Abbas Rashid

Clearly, over the last few months, extremists have seen public support for their positions erode as more of their activities have come to light. Inciting people in this fashion would be a way for them to regain this lost space

The most recent victim of those who have frequently used the blasphemy law and the social sanction derived from it for their own ends has been a young man named Fanish Masih, aged 19, a resident of Sambrial-Sialkot, a citizen of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and a Christian. On an accusation of blasphemy, he was put in jail and was subsequently found dead in his cell. And, the police claims, he committed suicide.

For his family, his tragic death will probably remain the most traumatic incident of their lives. But what is equally unfortunate is that his death is not entirely exceptional. Just over the last few weeks there have been horrendous incidents of organised and targeted violence in Punjab; the worst in Gojra, where a number of men and women were burnt alive when a mob apparently used chemicals to set homes on fire. The Gojra victims, too, were members of the Christian community. Of course Muslims have also been victimised under this law by those who obviously think little of taking a religious cover for perpetrating such crimes with impunity.

But then we need to recall that the ‘law-giver’ in this case was none other than General Zia-ul Haq, a military dictator who used Islam liberally in order to secure desperately needed legitimacy for his government. The laws imposed by Zia with the stated objective of making better Muslims of us all essentially targeted the poor and the defenseless, particularly women and minorities. It was a cynical policy used with abandon to gain political leverage.

That successive civilian governments have left the law in place does them little credit. At one point during Benazir Bhutto’s government there seems to have been some discussion about imposing a five- to seven-year jail sentence on anyone who was found guilty of false accusation in such a case. It seemed an eminently fair proposal given that the law prescribes the death sentence for blasphemy and furthermore there is a high likelihood of the accused being killed in any case, regardless of whether the charge is eventually proven in court or not. The idea was dropped because of pressure from clerics. And, of course, this is a group from whom we hear very little about how this law, imposed by a dictator and used relentlessly as a cover to terrorise minorities, serves Islam or the ends of justice.

Time and again, it has been established in such cases that in the background there was a dispute over property or some other personal antagonism that provided the motive for someone to make the accusation. And yet, once again, we have Maulana Hamid Kazmi, the federal minister for religious affairs, defending the law, as it stands.

Does anyone really think that in a country with a Muslim majority of about 95 percent, anyone would even dare blaspheme? Why did we hardly ever hear of an incident of blasphemy prior to the advent of Zia-ul Haq? With or without the law, people would have been outraged if they found someone blaspheming. The reason is that blasphemy was not common then nor is there any reason for it to be common now. The difference between the two eras obviously lies elsewhere.

But this was not just a case of mob hysteria. Fanish Masih was in jail and kept in isolation. There seems to be no motive whatsoever for him to commit suicide, even if he were to somehow acquire the means to do so. There must be a proper and credible enquiry into the circumstances of his death.

Was he killed by those who were deputed by the state to protect him? In which case what would be the distinction between them and a mob? Those found guilty of committing or abetting such a serious crime must be brought to book. It is not enough to adopt the usual course of suspension and transfer. The message must go through that however aggravated anyone may feel, they have not been accorded the mandate of judge and executioner.

But is there another sinister dimension to these killings?

It could well be that some of the leading extremist groups in Punjab are now anticipating the state moving against themselves as the military operation in FATA and the NWFP against the militants proceeds successfully. According to a provincial minister, some banned extremist groups were involved in the violence in Gojra and that masked men had been spotted among the rioters. So, as the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has also pointed out, this was not quite spontaneous outrage but an organised attack.

Clearly, over the last few months, extremists have seen public support for their positions erode as more of their activities have come to light. Inciting people in this fashion would be a way for them to regain this lost space. All the more reason then that the government should be vigilant — not quite what it has been so far — against efforts by such groups to foment anger against minority groups as a tactical move. Much better intelligence would be needed by the state to check this strategy.

There is no question that the blasphemy law needs to be reviewed. For a start, we could go back to the recommendation of the Islamic Ideology Council whereby it would be possible to register blasphemy cases only with the High Court, with only senior investigators charged with the task of establishing the truth of the matter.

The other issue is that of imposing punishment for making a false accusation or providing wrongful testimony in such a case. Both should serve as a deterrent to this cruel persecution of minorities in particular and restrain those disposed to using the law for their own ulterior purposes.

Abbas Rashid lives in Lahore and can be contacted at abbasrh@gmail.com (Daily Times)


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