- Protesters demand probe of alleged sexual abuse by FIA personnel, concrete steps to stop the misuse of blasphemy law against religious minorities
LAHORE: The Pakistan Christian Action Committee (PCAC) on Friday organised a protest at Charing Cross (Faisal Chowk) in front of the Punjab Assembly against the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) torture on a Christian youth during interrogation in a blasphemy case.
On February 24, Sajid Masih jumped from the fourth floor of the FIA Punjab Headquarters building during the investigation. In a video statement made from his hospital bed on Feb 25, Sajid made horrific revelations, claiming that the FIA officials not only tortured him but also coerced him into having sex with his cousin, Patras Masih.
While addressing around 50-60 protesters, Lahore Bishop Irfan Jamil said that both youths were physically and mentally tortured. “We Christians are Pakistani citizens and we should not need to repeat this time and again that this is also our country,” he asserted.
Jamil further said that Pakistani Christians have worked for freedom, development and progress of this country. “But continuous incidents against Christians and other minorities give the impressions that we are not part of this country,” he stated.
He further demanded proper medical treatment to both Patras and Sajid and police protection to their families.
“Supreme Court’s 2014 verdict should be implemented in letter and spirit so people especially minorities will not suffer,” he said.
While talking to Pakistan Today, Reverend Shahid Meraj said that Christian community condemned such acts in the name of blasphemy act. “This is not justice, rather this is brutality,” he said. He demanded a fair trial for both Christian youths. “We also demand investigation against the FIA officials who tortured Patras and Sajid,” he added.
Another protester, Sumaiya, said that the case of Sajid and Patras shows that minorities are suffering in Pakistan which should not happen. “The government needs to take concrete steps to stop such incidents,” he said.
Reverend Saleem Khokhar demanded complete protection for minorities in Pakistan, stating that this case should set an example for FIA officials that torture is not the method to treat any suspect.
On February 20, FIR was registered with Shahdara Police Station under Section 295-C of the blasphemy law by Hafiz Muhammad Awais alleging that Patras Masih-18-year-old sweeper at a bank- posted a blasphemous image on the Facebook group named “Paglon Ki Basti” on January 16, 2018. Interestingly, the FIR was registered after one month of the incident.
After the arrest, Shahdara police handed over Patras and Sajid Masid to FIA cybercrime wing on February 24, for further investigation during which the incident happened.
The news about the incident was broken by Pakistan Today, which soon went viral on the social media and caused an uproar in citizens across Pakistan and other parts of the world.
Later in the day, the protesters in a press statement demanded that:
1) A joint investigation team (JIT) be formed to reinvestigate the charges against Patras Masih, moreover, credible representatives from Christian community be allowed to monitor the proceedings of the investigation after the allegations of torture have surfaced.
2) Lahore administration and police should ensure safety and security of the Christian populace, particularly in Shahdara Town so that all displaced families can return to their houses.
3) The case against Sajid Masih under charges of attempt to suicide be withdrawn and investigations by JIT regarding the alleged torture and enforce sexual abuse against the FIA personnel, be initiated on the complaints of Sajid and Patras.
4) An empowered and efficient implementation committee be appointed to implement the recommendations of the Gojra Judicial Enquiry, which has been ignored since 2009.
5) Take concrete steps to stop the misuse of blasphemy law, particularly against religious minorities.
6) The government of Punjab should actively work to inculcate peace and interfaith harmony under the National Action Plan.
7) The judgment given by the Supreme Court of Pakistan concerning the protection of religious minorities on June 19, 2014, be implemented in letter and spirit. An implementation committee be set up and the report be submitted to the parliament as well as the human rights bench of the Supreme Court.