Date: June 1, 2012
By Ashfaq Fateh
Special to ASSIST News Service
TOBA TEK SINGH, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Christian women from Faisalabad were on their way back home after attending the funeral service of their relative from Sandhilianwala, in Toba Tek Singh, when their van was stopped by traffic police near the railway level crossing, Pir Mahal on May 21, 2012.
The driver, Shahbaz Masih (also a Christian) was abused by the traffic officer and later sent to jail for protesting an illegal fine. The Christian women passengers were badly tortured by the police, and police tried to snatch the camera of a local TV reporter for covering their manhandling and baton charging.
Local journalist Sultan Sidho told ANS, "The driver was asked to show the registration and other required papers. The driver showed the required papers, then the traffic police officer snatched the mobile phone and keys to the van and forced the driver, Shahbaz Masih, to pay one thousand Rupees ($11 US) fine. Shahbaz debated with the officer because he had all the required papers and did not violate any traffic rules. Upon hearing this, the officer became furious and started slapping him and calling names."
Sultan went on to say, "The passengers (all Christian women) requested the driver to pay one thousand rupees to the officer and told him that they will pay him back later. The driver paid the amount and asked the officer to return his mobile phone and the keys of the van. The officer refused to return the mobile and the van keys. The passengers protested against the officer's attitude as they were getting late. The women started a sit-in and chanted slogans against the traffic police. The traffic officer called the police who badly tortured the Christian women and driver."
Rana Khalid, another TV reporter, told ANS over the phone, "The police booked the driver and took the van into their custody. The Christian women were badly tortured by the police. The policemen intercepted the cameraman and told him not to take the footage of their cruelty and tyranny."
Khalid also brought to the attention of ANS that, "dozens of Muslim pedestrians joined protesting the Christian women on finding their protest justified. Two of them have also been booked."
ANS gained special permission from Sultan Sidhu to use his YouTube link, which carries footage of the Christian women and torture by police. The footage shows the women protesting and telling what happened to them. The footage has been captured in Urdu and Sultan Sidhu has given details of the news in Urdu language on the same link.(See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zn0asX5YS4I&feature=share)
Chaudhry Muhammad Iftikhar Sidhu, Vice President of Happy Life, a non- government organization (NGO) working for human rights, condemned the police treatment of the Christian women.
He told ANS, "The police have tortured Christian women who were protesting against the ill-behavior of the traffic police. They were baton charged in a broad day light. The police 'high ups' have not taken any notice. It's just because the women are Christians, and they are considered as among the weaker sections of the society."
Chaudhry demanded that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan take notice of the manhandling of the Christian women as it is a human rights violation.
Rafia Salomi, an activist for the rights of Christian women spoke with ANS and said, "Violence against Christian women is increasing. Kidnapping, bonded labor, violence against working women, is becoming common. The violence against peaceful Christian women is a shameful act of the police."
Salomi hailed the role of the media for taking steps to highlight the issue. She also said she appreciated the Happy Life organization for its advocacy in favor of the Christian women involved.
Pastor Johnson Gill said, "It's a positive sign that our Muslim brothers and sisters are raising their voices against the violations of Christian's rights. Journalists and people working at Happy Life are our friends. They are thanked for their support."
Pastor Johnson appealed "to help the driver to be released from the police custody and dispose of the false charges leveled against him."
**Our ANS -Pakistan correspondent thanks the other media present for sharing the news and for permission to use the YouTube link.