Ruined homes in Badami Bagh
I am really sad to share about the inimical incident of inhuman violence against Christians in Badami Bagh,Pakistan. However, the community is in great need and I enclose my initial report of carnage at St Joseph's Colony:
St Joseph's Colony, Badami Bagh, Lahore.
On 8th March 2013 around at 06:00 hours (PST), I was informed about an unpleasant alleged incident of blasphemy in Christian vicinity of Joseph Colony, near the general bus stand, north of Lahore-Punjab, Pakistan. Later I was informed about the registration of a Blasphemy case First Incident Report (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 British Pakistani Christian Association sent me as its representative to Lahore for fact-finding. I left immediately and visited the place of occurrence and noted down the following primary facts;
"The alleged accused was identified as Sawan Masih commonly referred to as Boodi. Mr Masih is aged 35 and is the son of Chaman Masih and resident of Joseph Colony (I have full address details). 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 in a joint family system (shared house). His house is located at t the front row of the vicinity of Joseph Colony. Mr Masih is a known habitual drinker.
Sawan and the complainant Shahid Imran (barber by profession) were cordial with each other and their friendship was known to everyone in the locality. They were good friends for the last 8 years and both drank together
On 5th March 2013 (Tuesday) around 07:00 am both Sawan Masih and Shahid Imran were drinking, when all of sudden they started quarrelling with each other and a scuffle took place between them. It is alleged the matter was very trivial. When the neighbouring Christians noticed their brawling and a torrid exchange of abusive language, they intervened. The quarrel was arbitrated between by fellow residents and seem to have been resolved. However, Shahid Imran held a grudge in his heart and got annoyed from Sawan Masih.
The complainant Shahid Imran also felt animosity towards Sawan who was a Christian as he felt that as a "Chura" (illiterate) especially one that was Christian, he was of lowly untouchable status and should not argue with a Muslim. He threatened Sawan saying that he would face dire consequences. The complainant Shahid Imran Shahid went to Shafiq Ahmed his friend and together they hatched a plot to implicate Sawan Masih in a false case of blasphemy. Later Shafiq Ahmed and Shahid Imran informed a local Muslim cleric of the area mosque about the false incident of a blasphemy.
The first attack
On 8th March 2013 (Friday) around 04:00 am the cleric Qari Saifullaha announced that Sawan had committed a blasphemy against Muhammed, through the loudspeakers of his mosque. Following the broadcast thousands of Muslim residents gathered and marched towards Joseph Colony, chanting slogans and throwing stones at the houses of Christians. The fanatical mob demanded the immediate arrest of Sawan Masih. The mob also started looting and crushing the households of Christians. In the meanwhile, local police reached the violence and stood back and watched the ensuing destruction and esacpe of the mob.
The attack resulted in many losses including smashing of homes and business premises, robbery and burglary of valuable goods.
The police then warned the Christians to vacate their houses immediately, it is believed the instruction came from higher ranks and was potentially politically motivated. Innocent Christian women and children immediately evacuated their houses wearing inadequate clothing and leavening behind what remained of their houses & possessions, much of this was looted later and it is believed Police corruption is a factor.
Christians were badly beaten and the vehicle of a local bishop Akram Gill was damaged inhumanly.
Registration of Blasphemy case FIR
Later, the complainant Imran Shahid filed an application and a blasphemy case FIR No. 112/13 offence 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), was registered against Sawan Masih at Badami Bagh, Police Station.
Initially Sawan Masih was hiding himself from the perpetrators of violence, so local police arrested his father Chaman Masih. He was badly beaten by the police. His father totally denied the allegations and was later released, somewhat begrudgingly. Eventually Sawan Masih handed himself over to the police.
The second attack:
On 9th March 2013 around 09:30 am a largere mob of almost 4,000 religious zealots gathered around Joseph Colony, led by Shafiq Ahmed, who was searching for the accused Sawan Masih. A heavy contingent of police was deployed near the colony, however, the mob encouraged by lack of activity from the Police entered the colony and started looting and set above 200 hundred houses on fire. Two churches along with a chapel were vandalized and approximately 500 hundred Bibles were burnt. The church had an associated school and the furniture and other belongings of the school was also consumed in fire.
The Christian houses, eight shops, many motorcycles, auto rickshaws, electricity meters, gas meters, iron rods used in the roofs were completely consumed in fire. There were large heaps of melted metal and all good inside had disappeared or where no longer recognisable.
This episode of unspeakable violence in the name of religion began at 09:30 in the morning and did not conclude till the afternoon. An interesting point was that large numbers of police were present and failed to avert the angry mob and simply did not intervene. The mob executed their exercise of hatred freely and without any fear for five hours. All Christians managed to save themselves by fleeing from the scene giving up their meagre worldly possessions.
Police have assured the community that all culprits of this aggression will be arrested, but they could not protect the Christian community form further attack. This is creating fear of retribution should they name the malevolent attackers. Lead figures from the hate mob informed the local Christian leadership that they would not let the Christian families return until Sawan’s arrest.
This idicates a failure on behalf of the Police to inform enraged Muslims about the arrest and registration of a blasphemy case FIR, against Sawan Masih.
I headed the fact-finding mission along with Mr. Sardar Mushtaq Gill (Social Mobilizer), Mr. Yacoob Bhatti, a social rights activist.
At present the victims immediately need food, clothing, crockery, beddings, clean water, tea, biscuits and medicines.
Christians in Pakistan staged a peaceful protest demonstration throughout Pakistan and at some places the police unjustly stopped the protesters and a 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.
Bushra, Sister of Sawan Masih (accused) is weeping during her media talk
Picture of Main entrance of Yahonabad (Christian Town) in Lahore, after their protest police force is placed
Wilson David beaten during the protest talking to Shamim about the police official brutal killing on the peaceful protest
Sohail Johnson, chief of "sharing life ministries" Lahore in his office
Obaid Latif showing his body, severly beaten by police during the protest
Kashif Latif was beaten on head and he got 9 stitiches on his head