Police in Pakistan are doing little to ensure the safety of the Christian community, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has said in a statement on the basis of information that it has collected over the last couple of months.
The AHRC said that it had recently received information that Muslims residing in Chak 44, Mandi Bahaudin, Punjab Province, have turned aggressive against Christians living in the area, causing a great deal of restlessness and chaos within the community.
Referring to some local news reports, the AHRC claimed that the Muslims have put two conditions before the Christians namely (1) To convert to Islam if they want to continue living in the village (2) Or, leave the village forever.
The AHRC has said in one of its reports that police have done little to protect the community from the vengeful Muslim mass which is being often incited by local clerics who have leveled unsubstantiated allegations of blasphemy against Christians.
Citing information received from the Christian True Spirit (CTS) and Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) in London, the AHRC claims that the besieging of Christians started a couple of months ago, and included the deployment of a few young Muslim men for surveillance of some Christian homes to apprehend those persons they found guilty of the draconian Blasphemy Act.
Some months ago, Muslims clerics and goons of the area have also demanded the handing over of Imran Masih, the son of Sharif Masih, a resident of Village Chak 44, Tehsil Phalyian, District Mandi Bahauddin in Punjab. Imran is a young Christian employed at a local healthcare centre as a janitor. As he was on good terms with his co-workers, he was invited to attend the wedding ceremony of a colleague’s daughter. At the wedding, on April 16, 2016, Imran recorded a part of the wedding ceremony on his cell phone.
When he went back to work, his colleague asked him to show them the movie clip he recorded; he handed his cell phone to one of his colleagues and left to finish his work. When Imran came back he saw that Bilal, a local Muslim drug store owner, whose store is located adjacent to his work place, was holding Imran’s phone and showing the provocative lectures of Pastor Sami Samson to other workers standing around him. When Imran asked Mohammad Bilal to return his phone, he refused to give him the mobile phone back. Bilal accused Imran of watching anti-Islamic lectures of Christian pastors on YouTube.
Imran swore to Bilal and his angry co-workers that he had never browsed Pastor Sami Samson’s lectures, but they refused to let him go. After beating him severely, they locked him in an empty room; luckily Imran had another cell phone hidden in his pocket; he used that phone to call members of his Catholic Church Committee and informed them of his confinement in the health centre.
After receiving Imran’s phone call, Aamir Masih and Arif Masih, along with a few other Committee members, went to Imran’s work place to rescue him. They told the senior doctor at the health centre that the accusation was baseless as Imran is illiterate. He cannot operate a search engine on the cell phone. After much persuasion, the committee members were successful in securing Imran’s release. However, three days after the incident, Imran found out that religious scholars from Sarghoda had pronounced a decree against him. He had been pronounced liable to be killed according to the decree. He was advised by his colleagues to escape.
Imran got extremely scared and did not return home that night. The next day Imran’s father Sharif Masih called the health centre to inquire about his son. The doctor on duty told him that Imran was not at work. After not receiving a satisfactory answer from the doctor, Sharif Masih took few church committee members and went to Imran’s work place, where he was informed that Imran had fled to save his life.
Muslims from all walks of life, including clerics and businessmen, have been baying for Imran’s blood and have even put a prize on his head.
According to the AHRC, the police feel that the issue is not that serious as is being made out. Christians on the other hand maintain that the police did not speak to any of them and never returned to patrol at night.
They claimed that till date 75 percent of the Christians have fled from the village, while those who remain have no food to eat as local Muslims refuse to sell them anything.
According to the AHRC, the situation is getting worse with each passing day, as Christians are living in constant fear that their houses may be set on fire by Muslim mobs.
The AHRC has called on the Pakistan government to ensure the security of Christians such as Imran Masih and provide them alternative safe houses. It has also called on the government to proactively work towards encouraging inter-faith harmony and prosecute perpetrators of violence in the name of religion without fail or delay.
The AHRC has said that it has written a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion or belief calling for the Special Rapporteur’s intervention in the matter.
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