Persecution of Christians

Sir: The formation of Pakistan and the search for its Islamic identity are inextricably linked. In their effort to Islamise Pakistan the mullahs have subverted any attempt to accommodate religious differences and give the minorities the right to lead a respectable life.

On February 11, a 22-year-old Christian boy, Asim Saleem, a rickshaw driver by profession, went to see his Muslim girlfriend, Sunair. He wanted to marry her but his parents were opposed to the idea. The couple decided to take things in their own hands and went for a court marriage. Neither of the families attended the ceremony. The couple eventually eloped to avoid their families’ wrath, which was not to be. The parents of the girl came to Asim’s home in a neighbourhood Christian community and demanded the release of their girl. Oblivious to the development, Asim’s father Saleem requested for some time to investigate the matter. While returning, the cleric accompanying the girl’s family warned of dire consequences of brutal nature if the couple were not produced within the time given by Asim’s family.

A few terrified Christians found the courage to inform the police about the critical situation while the rest of the community dwellers fled to nearby places to escape violence. Alerted, the police came into action to prevent the situation from becoming hostile. On February 14th, after the Friday prayer, a large mob came to the Nazarat Colony to vandalize the Christians living there. The local police surrounded the colony and dispersed the mob.

Later in a bizarre twist of events, the police filed an FIR-114/14 against Asim Saleem, under section of abduction and forced matrimony, PP 265-B. Similarly a case of theft for stealing Rs 54,000 and five grams gold was also registered against the boy. Police arrested Asim’s father and his two cousins, Bashir Masih and Shaukat Masih. All of them were tortured and forced to confess being involved in the kidnapping of the girl. The poor father died in police custody. The investigation officer (IO), Mohammad Shabbir, had been found saying that these people were taken into police custody to protect them.

Is this the way lives are saved? Are we living in a lawless society that one should be sheltered under the cover of a police station to be protected? Even if that be the case, why only three people, what about the rest of the community? Were not all of them in danger and had to flee their homes to save their lives? How would the IO justify the torture meted out to Asim’s cousins and his father?

There have been cases when Christian and Hindu girls had been forcefully abducted, converted to Islam and married off to Muslim boys. No case was ever registered against the Muslim community. But when a Muslim girl marries a Christian boy willingly, the extremists get into action to vandalize the Christians.

Shamim Masih