- FIA cybercrime unit feigned ignorance about incident, later claimed that suspect was attempting to escape during investigation
LAHORE: A suspect in the Shahdara blasphemy case is in critical condition after mysteriously “falling off” the fourth floor of the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Punjab headquarters building during investigation, Pakistan Today learnt on Friday.
Per details, a police team had handed over primary accused Patras Masih, 18, and his cousin Sajid Masih, 24, to the FIA’s cybercrime wing on Friday afternoon for interrogation. The complainants, members of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) and other religious parties, were also present at the FIA building during the time of the investigation.
Earlier this week, an FIR was registered with the Shahdara Town Police Station under Section 295-C of the blasphemy law against Patras. The complainant Hafiz Muhammad Awais had alleged that Patras had posted a sacrilegious photo on Jan 16, 2018, on a Facebook group named “Paaglon Ki Basti”.
An FIA official, on condition of anonymity, claimed that during interrogation, Sajid tried to escape and “jumped off” the fourth floor of the building; however, he fell on the roof of the second floor, resulting in serious injuries to his head and body.
After the incident that occurred around 6 pm, Sajid was taken to the Ganga Ram Hospital by an FIA team. However, after two hours of emergency treatment, the youth was moved to the Lahore General Hospital for treatment of serious head injuries.
FIA Sub-Inspector Khalid Saeed, who was conducting the investigation when the incident took place, feigned ignorance about the incident when he was contacted to confirm the information.
“No such thing has come to my knowledge. Yes, we brought the suspects to the cybercrime unit for investigation but they were alright when I left the office,” he said and put down the phone. Repeated calls made to him went unanswered.
At the hospital, at least 10 FIA officials, including Additional Director Imran Ahmar, were present outside the operation theatre, waiting for doctors to inform them about Sajid’s condition.
Talking to the reporter, Ahmer said that according to his information, the suspect had attempted to escape by jumping off the fourth floor of the building.
“I’ve just arrived here so I am not in a position to share further details,” he said.
Interestingly, no official from the cybercrime unit, including the investigating officer, was at the hospital. However, those present there, including two assistant directors from the immigration and human trafficking wings, seemed tense. One said that it would be best to keep the matter under wraps to “avoid religious tension since the issue involved blasphemy”.
Another official, who requested anonymity, said this was the first time an under custody suspect had tried to escape during interrogation. “I was sitting in my office when I heard the commotion. It seems the suspect had miscalculated the height between the floors. He fell almost 30 feet on the roof of the second floor. We had to call a Rescue 1122 vehicle to bring the injured suspect down,” he said.
The official denied that the FIA threatened or tortured suspects during interrogation.
“We mostly deal with white collar crimes so there’s no need to resort to physical torture,” he said, adding that only the officers present in the room would be able to tell what had happened there.
When asked why officials of the cybercrime unit, who were in-charge of the suspect’s custody, were not present at the hospital, the official said they were on their way. However, the officers concerned did not show up even after three hours of the incident.
Meanwhile, Aneeqa Maria Advocate, the lawyer for the accused Patras, said at the hospital that a group of 10-15 people led by the complainant, Hafiz Awais, had attacked her client outside the court of Magistrate Imtiaz Bajwa at the district courts where the police had taken him for seeking remand earlier in the day.
“The complainant and his accomplices slapped and punched Patras when the police brought him out from the courtroom. Later the police handed over his custody to the FIA and the IO, Khalid Saeed, asked the complainant party to also reach the FIA HQs for recording their statements.
“We requested the police to provide security to the accused and his family as we feared that the complainant party might attack them again, but our appeal fell on deaf ears. Even at the FIA office, I requested Khalid Saeed to ensure the security of Patras’s family, but he said it was not his responsibility. Hardly a few minutes after we left the FIA building, we were informed that Sajid had ‘fallen off’ the fourth floor…,” she claimed.
Maria said she found it hard to believe that Sajid, who works as a sweeper at a local school in Shahdara, would attempt to escape by jumping off the fourth floor of the building. He was being investigated because Patras had allegedly shared the sacrilegious photo on his Facebook wall,” she said, adding that the FIA version of the incident was “hard to digest”.
It may be mentioned here that the accused was attacked outside the courtroom despite an “agreement” that was signed between the Muslim and Christian delegations on Tuesday night.
According to the agreement, the religious parties will allow transparent probe into the incident of alleged blasphemy by ending their protest; Christians won’t be harmed by the Muslims and they can safely return to their homes—which they had fled after the mob gathered to protest the blasphemy accusation—and Christians will not comment or talk about Islam or Islamic rituals.
Following the FIR, on Monday, a large number of Christians living in Dhir village in Shahdara Town had fled their homes after a charged mob comprising activists of the TLYR and other religious parties blocked the Shahdara intersection, burned tyres and threatened to further intensify the protest until the arrest of Patras Masih.
The announcements had been made from mosques in the area urging locals to come out on the main road to protest against the alleged blasphemy. Fearing violence, a majority of the Christians living in the village had abandoned their houses and left for safer places; however, they had returned as situation became normal.