The family of the two murdered Pakistani Christian brothers’ who had been charged with blasphemy and then murdered inside a court, are still traumatized.
But now there could be some good news for them, and all Christians in Pakistan, as is has just been reported on TV Channels in Pakistan that a man called Rana Maqbool has been arrested by the secret agencies for the murders of Rashid Emmanuel, 30, and his brother Sajid, 27, who both faced blasphemy charges that they had denied. The brothers were shot in cold blood as they were being taken out of the court by policemen on Monday, June 19, 2010. A police official was also injured.
On July 21, 2010, thousands of Christians attended a memorial service in the Christian Colony of Gojra, in the district Toba Tek Singh, where the brothers were remembered.
The relatives and friends who were not been able to attend the funeral due to “so-called” security reasons, gathered in the town of Gojra, an area which was set to burn last year by the Muslim extremists. The grandparents of the murdered brothers lived there.
The following account is written to share my personal opinion of the role of Pakistan’s media, judiciary, government and civil society, and the action taken by them after the killings.
Print and Electronic Media
Pakistan’s mainstream electronic and print media showed great bias and failed to cover the incidents in a way that could show Christians as victims and help the common masses to understand that innocents were killed in this terrible event.
It did not speak about the hearing in the court in which the police informed the judge that “no evidence” was found against the two brothers. There were no witnesses in the case or any other evidence which could prove they were guilty. If these had been shown, it would prove that that they had been falsely accused, and the masses would have sympathies and condemn the extremists.
In my opinion, the media created more misery and misunderstandings about the Christians.
Even the Christian business places established by poor Christians in the Warispura area of Faisalabad, were badly. The loss of business and injuries to Christians by the Muslim attackers has also not been covered even. The loss of Christian’s businesses is estimated in millions of US dollars.
Take the example of July 20, 2010, the day after the brothers were killed, The News International, one of the largest English-language newspapers in Pakistan, and considered the most liberal, covered the story on the second page of the with the title: “Attackers killed 2 ‘Blasphemers’ in police custody.” The group forgot to say that it had to be decided by the court whether they were blasphemers or not.
The next day (July 21, 2010,) the same correspondent asked Akram Gill, a member of the National Assembly for Minorities in a press conference, saying, “Why had both the brothers been distributing the handwritten papers at bus stand?” He reported that Mr. Gill had no answer for that question. Again the reporter misled the readers, despite knowing the fact that there were no witnesses who had come forward to substantiate that they had distributed such papers and also that even the complainant in the case had denied it. The headline of The News International was enough to make Muslims understand that the murdered brothers were blasphemers and made them understand that Christians who were so viciously murdered, had committed blasphemy.
The Urdu language press which is largely read in the country was even worst. They published stories that could trigger violence. However, “Express Tribune” and DAWN, an English-language paper did a good job for balanced coverage. DAWN reported that Muhammad Khuram Shahzad, the complainant who had got the brothers arrested, belongs to an organization called Tehirk-i-Hurmat-i- Rasool, (“Organization for the Honor of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH”) This group is run by a United Nations and Pakistan banned armed fighters outlawed organization called “Lashkar-e-Taiba.”
On July 21, 2010, the Chief Justice of the Lahore Court took “Suo Motu” [This is a term that is used, for example, where a government agency acts on its own cognizance of the incident] action and issued a summons against the Regional Police Officer (RPO) Faisalabad, for “Criminal Negligence” in the protection of two brothers. The RPO admitted in the court that the two brothers were killed because of a “security lapse.” Now a Judicial Inquiry has been ordered. Labour court Judge of Faisalabad, Shiekh Muhammad Yousaf, has been appointed to hold the inquiry. A case has been registered against Deputy Superintendent and Inspector Muhammad Hussian for their failure to provide security to Rashid and Sajid.
Government and Public Representatives
Asif Ali Zardari, the President of Pakistan, has also sent message of condolences and sympathy to the family of the dead men and directed the “concerned authorities” to arrest the culprits involved who created such a bad name for Pakistan by violating the rights of minorities. Also, the Prime Minster of Pakistan, Yousaf Raza Gillani, has assured Christians in the country that he will take all out efforts to ensure “justice to the family.”
Farahnaz Ispahani, a member the Pakistan National Assembly and media advisor to the President has submitted, “An adjournment motion” in the national assembly for debate on the “Rising persecution of minority communities in Pakistan” She said that International Polls have shown, “A trend of increasing violence and brutality” towards minority communities in Pakistan.
Mr Altaf Hussain, chief of the Mutihida Qomi Movement, the third largest political party of Pakistan, strongly condemned the incident and expressed solidarity with the Christians and called on the government to take “stern action against the killers and conspirers.”
Main Shahbaz Sharief, Chief Minister of Punjab, has assured the “early arrest” of the culprits. However, no compensation or rehabilitation for those wounded in the riots and Christian shopkeepers has been announced.
Minorities’ leaders are condemning the government for their failure to protect minorities and demanding to repeal the draconian laws in Pakistan.
Silence of Civil Society Organizations
Pakistan’s Civil Society organizations, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Labour Party Pakistan, South Asia Partnership (SAP), PATTAN, and many others who claim to work for the rights of religious minorities, have been silent over the killings of two Christian boys and I believe this will further strengthen the extremists.
Groups like Applied Socio Economic Research (ASR-Lahore), the Harmony
Foundation, the Society for Human Development, National Commission for Justice & Peace, and few other organizations, however, have strongly condemned the killings and have urged the government to take immediate steps to protect minorities.
The Most Rev. Bishop Joseph Coutts, Bishop of the Faisalabad diocese, Fr. Khalid Rasheed Asi, Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, Fr. Aftab James Paul, Atif Jamil Pagaan, Joel Amir Shohotra, a member of the Punjab Assembly and others, have held several meetings with the district administration and also Muslim clerics, searching for a peaceful resolution of the issue and building peace after the killings.
The Rev. Fr. Aftab James Paul, director of Interfaith Dialogue said that a handwritten letter was presented to Muslim clerics during an interfaith and peace building meeting. He stated that the clerics strongly denied their involvement against the two brothers and it was decided in the meeting that a Christian delegation comprised of church and political leaders were due to have meeting with two brothers on July 20, 2010 to further investigate their allegedly involvement in the case. But tragically they were killed before it could take place.
Failure of law enforcement agencies
The case has shown the overall failure of law enforcement agencies. The honorable courts are also well aware that in these cases that accused are often attacked. One could take the example of militants who have exhibited their arms openly in the presence of law enforcement agencies and even had explosive material with them to burn down the houses and properties of the Christians in Warispura, Faisalabad. Yet despite this, the local police dared not arrest these thugs who were operating openly.
The challenge for government
There have been several statements and promises made by the governments at federal and provincial level after the killings of the two brothers to protect and provide justice to the religious minorities. The coming days will prove how far they are committed to their words.
Note: Rashid and Sajid were my closed associates. Rashid and I had spent lot of time together. He had great vision for the Christians. I never saw him stating anything against Islam or the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). He had strong faith in the Lord.
He worked for over ten years in the Faisal Hospital, Faisalabad and also for the Dawoo Bus Service. He was stationed in different cities. All through these years, he worked with Muslims. The workers and institutions have never found him having any anti-Islam thoughts. Rather he was very friendly and deeply respected others.
Ashfaq Fateh, Assist News Service