Naushera blasphemy case: Christian was illiterate, only followed orders: NCJP
* Case also registered against angry mob which set temple on fire: police
By Ali Waqar
LAHORE: Yousaf Masih, an illiterate 60-year old sweeper who is charged with blasphemy and desecration of the Quran in Naushera, was only disposing waste on his landlady’s orders, according to evidence gathered by the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP). Yousaf had no way of knowing if some Quranic verses had found their way into the garbage, says the commission.
“A child spotted Yousaf Masih burning verses from the Quran. He was in fact just burning garbage. The boy raised an alarm, and the swift and ruthless reaction by extremists of the locality led to the ransacking of a Hindu temple on the same night (June 28) by a angry mob,” said the NCJP’s Rawalpindi correspondent. This was the same temple that had been damaged following the destruction of Babari Mosque in India. It had been reconstructed in 1993.
Yousaf was employed by Major Farida, a nurse in the Pakistan Army. He was obeying his mistress’ orders by burning some household waste papers, when the child saw him, according to the NCJP. “Soon after, mosque amplifiers were used to announce the desecration. Seeing the hot Muslim reaction, local Christians and Hindus fled to the local police station, seeking protection, but the police failed to respond to their pleas.”
Yousaf was booked under Section 295 A/B of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) on June 28. His family escaped from the locality to another city. Maj Farida has also left.
Local police officials told Daily Times that a case had also been registered against the Muslim extremists for setting the temple on fire. They said that Ghulam Hussain, a local superintendent, was investigating the matter. The Naushera SP and district police officer were not available for comment. The local police refused to provide any more details, saying instead, “The matter has been taken up by high ups.”
On June 29, the NWFP government suspended two senior police officers, Sohail Khalid, deputy superintendent of police, and Bahadar Khan, station house officer, and ordered an inquiry to be submitted within 10 days.
The NCJP correspondent told Daily Times that the situation was returning to normal and military and paramilitary troops had been called in to protect the area. Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops Conference and the All Pakistan Minorities Alliances (APMA) in separate statements issued on Thursday condemned the destruction of a place of worship over the allegation of Quran desecration.
They demanded that the case against Yousaf be withdrawn and reiterated their demand to repeal the blasphemy laws. Both the minorities, Hindus and Christians, live together in Naushera (NWFP). About 70 minority families inhabit the targeted Lamba Vera area.