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Civil society calls for transparent inquiry into Shahdara incident

By Zoya Anwer
February 27, 2018

Members of the Christian community and the civil society gathered once again at the Karachi Press Club on Monday to protest against a Shahdara blasphemy suspect’s treatment and to demand a transparent inquiry into his case.

Last week Patras Masih was booked for allegedly posting blasphemous content on social media. His cousin Sajid Masih was called in by the FIA on Friday, but he jumped off the fourth floor of the building, suffering severe injuries, because he was allegedly told to sexually assault Patras.

Addressing the protesters, Christian Resource Welfare Centre’s Ghazala Shafique said both suspects should be given due justice. “We’ve gathered here in the light of a sorrowful incident: another attack on the Christian community. However, what’s more disappointing is the deafening silence of the electronic media, as the issue is being deliberately ignored.”

She said that earlier, state institutions had not paid heed to their pleas and now another body, the Federal Investigation Agency, has become a party to violence against the community members seeking their help.

“We haven’t forgotten Gojra and Shanti Nagar, and we want to remind everyone that when one member is accused, the entire community is forced to suffer, as people don’t think twice before setting our houses on fire.”

Aurat Foundation’s Mahnaz Rahman said she felt ashamed of the incident. She said the civil society has been protesting against the misuse of the blasphemy law, adding that a JIT should be formed to investigate the measures taken by the FIA officials.

Civil society activist Jibran Nasir said the very law has instilled fear among people of all communities because it can be easily misused against anyone.

“Those who are focusing on the allegations conveniently ignore the treatment being meted out to Patras Masih when he was being taken to court, how he was being beaten by all those who had suddenly become custodians of religion.”

He said the people who were harassing Patras were also threatening to torch the entire Shahdara town, but none of them would be presented before the court if they were to follow through with the threats.

Referring to the FIA’s denial of torturing Sajid, he said it is important to know the reasons behind Sajid jumping off the fourth floor of the building. “I request CJP Saqib Nisar to at least take suo motu notice of the mob justice that follows blasphemy allegations in order to put an end to such cases once and for all.”

Pastor Shafique said: “This is not the first case of subjugation of minorities; rather, these instances of violence occur under the supervision of the state authorities.” He said that most of the incidents related to blasphemy allegations take place in Punjab, and it seems that hate is being bred there, adding that the Christian community has been suffering in silence for the past many years.

National Trade Union Federation’s Nasir Mansoor said legislation with loopholes makes it fairly easier to target minorities, adding that it is distressing to see that now a mere discourse on it is becoming taboo. “It’s absolutely urgent to take steps against such incidents, especially when the state is also trying to change the narrative.”

Pastor Saleem Michael said torturing people would only create a rift and breed mistrust in the authorities. One of the protesters felt that the authorities should now take steps to save an injured Sajid because those who go behind bars seldom return.

“Patras has already been booked and Asia Bibi is still languishing in jail, so I have little hope that we would see any betterment soon,” he lamented. The protesters then prayed together for God to help their grieving selves find some peace.