Shamim Masih speaks to father of Sawan Masih
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According to local reports, Sawan Masih was accused of committing blasphemy by a local barber, Imran Shahid. After pressure was applied by local Muslims Badami Bagh police registered an FIR No 112/13 under Section 295-C, against him.
Today (March 10, 2013) I reached Lahore and visited the protests arranged at different locations around the city. Chants rang out "Stop killing Pakistani Christians."
After this I travelled to Badami Bagh, which is where the incident occurred. Mushtaq Gill, of LEAD
took me to the location. We met the father of Sawan Masih also named Sawan Masih. I asked him to describe the story as it unravelled and he wept as he described the cruelty he and his community faced. He said;
"I was beaten by the accusers of my son. They did not care that I was very old and innocent. They told me they would kill me and my son. I was very frightened and thought I would die."
I saw a huge crowd of dispossessed men, women and children sitting in the streets. Most of them were crying for they had lost their houses and everything they owned. I herad stories of lost scooters, rikshahs tools of the trade for many individuals. They now tell me they have no means to make a living.
Saleem Masih, Brother of Sawan said;
"My brother has not committed blasphemy, but these fundamentalists planned to evacuate the area and set our houses into fire. what have we done?"
I accompanied the family to the local Police Station, to obtain the First Investigation Report (FIR) lodged against Sawan. We met the investigation officer (IO) Rana Shabir he told us that a local Muslim Imran Shahid accused Sawan of disrespecting the Holy Prophet. He contacted his local Imam who provoked local Muslims into attacking the houses of Christians. He also informed us that Sawan managed to escape from the scene before the angry mob could harm him. Later Sawan
was arrested to calm the angry mob and is currently in jail. Local residents and newspapers say the mob was around 3000 strong.
Sawan Masih denies the allegations and insists he has not committed blasphemy; "it's simply a conspiracy to defraud me of my land" he told the Police Officer.
Badami Bagh Station House Officer Mohammad Kamran has informed me that that preliminary investigations indicate that Imran Shahid and a few other accusers, have falsely laid blasphemy chrages against Sawan. However he has also stated they were forced to register a case against the Christian, to placate the furious mob who were pelting stones at Christians' houses.
"A heavy police contingent had been deployed in the area to prevent violence. Some religious extremists have vested interests. However, we will try and ensure that no person is
harmed by such elements who only want to foment religious strife.
I showed a copy of the FIR to Abdul Hameed the senior lawyer who handled Rimsha Masih's
case. He believes it will be easy to discharge the case during court hearing as the FIR has been professionally written and can be discharged easily as there is no evidence of guilt.
Shamim in one of the burnt out houses.
Shamim with Police officers at the police Station.
Makeshift tents in which families are living can be seen in this image.