The issue started in September 2010 when IB department intercepted SIX blasphemous letters (photocopies) posted to various mosques/ madaris. The letters were claimed to have been written by Farrukh Mushtaq who works as a grade II officer in National Bank of Pakistan. Farrukh has got his MBA degree from Lahore. He is 28 years old; a man of very mild nature; married with one six- month old daughter and a very beautiful young wife.
The IB staff contacted Farrukh’s father Mushtaq Gill and family on September 24th 2010 for the first time to investigate the matter. Mr. Mushtaq Gill is 58 years old and has had a career as instructor/ front desk manager in Christian Technical Training Center (CTTC) a prestigious institute with over 110 years of service to Christian/Muslim communities in Pakistan and the backbone of technical skills imparted to people of Sialkot, Wazirabad, Gujrat and Gujranwala.
In the letter Farrukh allegedly introduced himself, his family and then went on to abuse The Holy Prophet and Islam in provocative language. It seems whosoever wrote this letter wants to get Farrukh killed and spoil harmony between communities. One intriguing issue is the matching of Farrukh’s handwriting with blasphemous letters implying that someone with a matching hand did it.
The original investigation process by IB lasted 4 months. Farrukh was investigated at Bank, Mushtaq Gill the father was investigated at CTTC; many other members of his family have also been investigated. The family was strictly prohibited not to disclose the matter to anyone otherwise it will be in great trouble.
The IB after thorough investigation came to the conclusion that the family was innocent and it has nothing to do with letters or this issue in any way. The case appeared close but unfortunately, the IB was unable to locate the culprits.
The matter was brought to the notice of RPO, Mr. Tariq Masood Yasin, who promised to provide every possible help to resolve the issue. The police provided security to the institution for few days. Since IB was handling the matter the police department remained uninvolved in this issue.
The latest issue started on April 13, 2011 when two copies of the previous letter along with burnt pages of the Holy Quran were given by two boys about 8/9 nine years old to the Maulvi Sb in Aziz Colony where Mushtaq Gill and many other middle class Christians reside. The Maulvi took the letters to the CPO office. Incidentally, the two boys do not recognize Mushtaq Gill and Farrukh as ones who gave them the letters.
On 15th April, Friday the police contacted Mushtaq Gill and his son (both on duty) and told them that they have been summoned by the CPO Gujranwala. While they went there, they were detained in protective custody without remand by the police and are still with them. The family got the news of their detention and noticed movement of the local community which was very threatening for them. The family left the house using the back door as the front side was blocked by the attackers.
The family was investigated by the police for two days and declared innocent. The family is also under threat and as per instruction of the police is hiding at some safe place.
There are eight other Christians, including one pastor, in police custody. Farrukh Mushtaq is in solitary confinement and has been tortured and beaten by the police. During last visit on Tuesday 26 April he was seen handcuffed with injuries on arms/body.
As per our investigations, there are two or possibly three characters instigating the incident:
· A so-called doctor, Dr. Irfan Qadri, Mr. Irfan Shah and Sharif Saroya.
· Dr. Irfan Qadri who is neighbor of Mushtaq Gill’s family demanded the CPO to hand Farrukh Mushtaq over to him for punishment. He and Irfan Shah provoke other Maulvies and ordinary people to kill Farrukh and other Christians. Irfan Qadri and Irfan Shah don’t let the interfaith peace committee reach any consensus on bringing peace in the area.
· Irfan Shah is the Qari in the local mosque and works in concert with Irfan Qadri.
· Sharif Soroya is the leader of the local Changar community that does odd labor jobs in the area. His community members also work in the factory of Mr. Anwar Khokar (a local Christian). Sharif Soroya is using discussions over Raymond Davis issue with the Christian management as a pretext to bring blasphemy charges against the owner family, that otherwise has nothing to do with the letter issue. Incidentally, Anwar Khokar too has well educated and pretty daughters whom these people want to convert.
· Anwar Khokar’s factory is closed and taken over by Changars. Anwar and his son are in Police custody.
· All three individuals have a very dubious character in the whole incident and want to create unrest in the area. They have led all the processions, so far. Qadri has a long history of problems with local Christians & is incidentally married to a Christian woman who later converted to Islam. He also has an eye on Farruk’s wife whom he has been pressuring through his own wife.
There was attack on Christians of Aziz Colony on April 30, 2011 at 6:00 a.m. The properties of many Christians have been damaged. The school of Rev. Eric Isaac has been destroyed. The timely and decisive intervention of the police saved lives and properties of many people in that area.
Most of the Christians of that area have left their homes and fled to safer places. There are constant threats from local leaders Irfan Qadri, Irfan Shah, Sharif Saroya and others. There is a wave of fear and uncertainty in the area. The Christian Technical Training Centre and other institutions running on the Church Road campus have been closed down indefinitely for security concerns. Christians in the area are living under a threat of death and arson.
In the past there had been embezzlement in the accounts of CTTC. Two accountants Christopher and Patras Gill had confessed the crime and returned the money. Police have also taken these individuals into custody on suspicions that they may have a motive in this incident.
The Police appear cooperative but their reluctance for a judicial remand, protective custody and torture of Farrukh tell a different story. Some of the Muslim leaders, clergy men are also very helpful, but due to the fear of extremists, there is no permanent solution in sight.
Eight persons, Mushtaq Gill, Farrukh Mushtaq, Rev. Eric Isaac, Anwer Khokhar his son Simon, Christopher Khurshid, Patras Gill and Ijaz Masih are in police custody for last 18 days living in miserable conditions.
The entire incident has been so badly handled that it will leave scars on the Christian community in the area. Lives will no more be normal.
The incident has the tell tale signs of similar incidents in Punjab like Korian, Gojra, Sambrial, Sangla Hill, Kasur and Faisalabad. Why this trend has not been curtailed/controlled? Possibly due to the less attention fringe minorities get from the local authorities and because the Punjab Government repeatedly remains a bystander till such time events run out of control, bringing a very bad name to Pakistan. Tacit appeasement to radicalism cannot be ruled out.
Brigadier (R) Samson Simon Sharaf