Date: June 22, 2016
By Asif Aqeel
June 22, 2016
The Pakistani district of Kasur became infamous in late 2014 when a young Christian couple were brutally attacked by a mob and burned alive. The trial of their attackers is still going on.
Now a Christian peasant in a remote village in the same area has been beaten up after he demanded his due share in the crops he and his family had grown. More than a dozen men – armed with batons, axes and firearms – entered Jhoora Masih’s house in Bagri village on the eve of June 16 and set his household things on fire. They also insulted the women, tore their clothes, and also injured Masih by shooting at his hand.
The Saddar Police Station was initially unwilling to register a case against the suspects, but due to growing pressure from rights activists, the case was registered on June 18; however, Masih says no arrests have been made by the police, and the suspects, who live next door, are still harassing the family.
Human rights activist Khalid Shahzad told World Watch Monitor “The police are not interested in arresting the suspects. Also, despite Jhoora Masih receiving a bullet injury, he was not hospitalized, which is a clear sign that the state machinery seems to be acting with a bias.”
The injured Masih explained to World Watch Monitor how it all started: “About six months ago my family and I labored in the fields along with Naveed Ahmed, Muhammad Hameed and Abdul Rasheed, Muhammad Asif, Majeed Ahmad and Muhammad Sharif…They divided the profit among themselves and refused to give me my due - 26,000 rupees (roughly $260). Whenever I demanded it they beat me up. On June 15, they again beat me, after which I informed the police, but they pressured me for a compromise to which I eventually agreed.
“That night around 2am, around 15 men, armed with axes, batons and firearms, scaled the boundary wall and entered our house, calling us names, and saying they had been insulted in the village on our behalf. They fired one shot in the air and another into my left hand. Then they beat my wife and daughters, and humiliated them by touching their private parts.”
“The police arrived and saw us all injured and bruised, but they were still not willing to register a case. This only became possible after several Christians from Lahore arrived and pressurized the police.”
Saddar Deputy Superintendent of Police Mirza Arif Rasheed told World Watch Monitor that the men of the Arain caste had “done a great deal of injustice to the poor Christians” by not paying for their labor and then beating them. “However, both sides got injured. The Christians set their household articles on fire to implicate the Arains. Also, we are investigating if the Arains actually entered the house.”
“After trespassing in Masih’s house and doing all the damage, the Arains went early in the morning to the police claiming that they hadn’t entered Masih’s house and that Masih had injured them,” said human rights activist Shahzad - who reached the village and met the family and others. “The police have also ordered their [the Arains] medical examination and as soon as there will be no pressure on the police, a counter-version will be recorded to force the Christians to compromise,” Khalid predicted.
In July 2009, a very similar fight took place between a Christian family and Muslim landlords of Bahmaniwala village in Kasur, after which more than 110 houses of Christians were looted and ransacked. In that incident, Sardar Masih had a clash with local landlords. The latter then manipulated the police report, saying that Sardar and his family had injured them, but not that Sardar and family had been attacked first. When the medical report didn’t support the landlords’ version, they spread the news that Christians had blasphemed against Islam, after which many Christians’ houses were looted and attacked.
Asia Bibi case
Asia Bibi, probably the most well-known Christian in Pakistan, has been in prison for almost seven years, convicted of blasphemy, a charge triggered after she offered a cup of water to a fellow female worker in the fields on a very hot day. Her co-worker objected that the mere touch of a Christian had made the water “haram”, or religiously forbidden for Muslims. Asia Bibi was told to convert to Islam in order to become purified of her ritual impurity. Her refusal was perceived as an insult of Islam and hence she was accused of committing blasphemy.
Bibi was singled out in the European Union’s recently published Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy 2015, which highlighted the EU’s involvement on the violation of religious freedom cases.