A Pakistani Christian family’s home was burnt in 2004 by radical Muslims because they opposed demolition of their church to build a Muslim seminary on the same piece of land.
The seminary is now under construction, but is being strongly opposed by local Christians. Relating the story by phone to ANS, Haroon Mehboob Bhatti, son of Mehboob Bhatti, and a resident of Shahdra, a northern suburb of Lahore, Pakistan, told ANS that in 2004, a radical Muslim man wanted to construct an Islamic Seminary on the piece of land where the Yousaf Memorial Church stood. It was located off the G.T road at Iqbal Colony, Shahdra
It’s pertinent to say that this land worth billions of Pakistani Rupees, and the Rev Yaquob Gill, pastor of this church, said that “this might be one of the reasons Muslim men wanted to snatch it from the Christians, who are seen socially and financially week in Pakistan.”
“The man’s proposal was turned down by our family,” said Haroon Mehboob Bhatti, and the pastor.
“I was the church’s choir leader,” said Haroon Mehboob Bhatti, speaking on public phone from an undisclosed location. “Therefore, my family, our Pentecostal congregation and, particularly our pastor, the Rev. Gill. turned down their demands.”
He alleged the Muslim man and his unknown accomplices, who he said were members of a “Muslim land grabber’s gang” got “infuriated due to our persistent denials and they avowed to avenge.”
Bhatti then recounted what occurred, by saying that on November 15, 2004, the gang of Muslim men who were activists belonging to Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s oldest religious party, set their house on fire “in bid to compel us to make us demolish the Yousaf Memorial Church.”
Bhatti also alleged one of his three sisters, Farzana Mehboob Bhatti (age 40), sustained “critical burns” in a bid to save her younger sisters and brother namely: Stella Mehboob Bhatti (age 17 yrs.), Aylla Mehboob Bhatti, (age 12 approx.) and youngest brother, Vickram Mehboob Bhatti (age 8).
Rev Yaquob Gill said that the severely injured Farzana Mehboob Bhatti was rushed to the nearby Bajwa Hospital for burns treatment but she “succumbed” to her burns.
Rev Gill said that the Bhatti family “went into hiding” Haroon Mehboob Bhatti had gone to the Shahdra Police Station to “litigate against the Muslim men.”
However, the police informed them that they had “burned the Koran” — viewed as Holy by Muslims — at their home and thus had “humiliated the Prophet Muhammad.”
Shahdra Police Station then registered a case against the Rev. Yaquob Gill and Haroon Mehboob Bhatti with the First Information Report (FIR) # 536/2004.
The Pastor said after investigating the case, the police “exonerated him” but declared Haroon Mehboob Bhatti “a fugitive.”
The Yousaf Memorial Church’s pastor also said that other family members could not participate in the funeral of their eldest sister who had “sacrificed her life for them” due to the threats which were being persistently hurled over them by Jamaat-e-Islami and therefore “all of them went underground for their safety at unknown places.”
“Although my family was underground, even then the activists, including the original Muslim man who had laid charges against is, and others traced my family and, in their brutal attack, my mother, Josephine Bibi (aged 50+ yrs.) was thrashed to death by perpetrators on August 26, 2010,” said Bhatti.
Haroon Mehboob Bhatti alleged now he was unaware about the whereabouts of his family members who had survived in the house fire and the savage Muslim men’s attack.
The Rev. Yaquob Gill also corroborated this information at the press time and said that the Bhatti family was still under “death threats” and that the police were favoring the Muslims and could arrest them in the “fake” Blasphemy Case # 536/2004.
This is yet another case of the way Christians in Pakistani are being treated. Please pray for this family as they are in constant fear of being found and possibly being killed.