Pakistani Christian residents of Hakim colony in Chak [village] 48-NB, Sargodha, Pakistan, are claiming that they have been experiencing the “wrath” of local Muslims and police, following a complaint from an influential Muslim landlord that he had been robbed of a large amount of money.
Sources have since alleged to ANS that several Christian youths have been arrested and tortured by the police to try and extract confessions from them about the robbery they say they had nothing to do with.
Khalid Masih, a driver who lives in this colony, told ANS in a face-to-face interview, that the case began on Saturday, February 12, 2011, at about 1800 hours (Pakistani Time), when some unidentified dacoits [armed robbers] looted and absconded with the equilavent of about $20,218.84 USD in Pakistani Rupees from the home of a local Muslim landlord.
After the robbery, Masih said, the landlord then registered a complaint at the local Cantonment Police Station in Sargodha under section 392 [armed robbery] of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), against the “unknown robbers.”
Masih then claimed that the Muslim investigating officer and his close aid started “arresting and harassing” some of the Christian villagers of the Hakim Colony.
Three Christian youths, identified as Saleem Masih, son of Taj Masih, Saleem Masih, son of George Masih, and Mohsin Masih, son of Younas Masih, were then arrested and “beaten on their buttocks in an vicious manner” with clubs, a long piece of tire” and “remained shackled” for several days in the this police station, he said.
I personally saw their wounds that they told me they had sustained due the chains that police tortured them with to try and get them to confess to this crime that they claimed they had not committed.
ANS visited local Christian families of the Hakim Colony and was told by them that, although case was registered against “unknown men”, the police had only arrested and tortured, both physically and mentally, the Christians of the village, but none of the Muslims.
Local Christian villagers also said that, on the intervention of Punjab’s Christian Provincial Legislator, Tahir Naveed Chaudhary, and Farrukh Tanvir, his younger brother who is the head of the youth wing of the All Pakistan Minorities’ Alliance (APMA), the police finally released the three youths.
But later on, the families went on to state, and following the influence of the Muslim plaintiff, the police then arrested five other Christian youths, adding that they are still who are still in police custody and were being “tortured barbarically” to confess the crime which they strenuously deny.
The five Christian young men are Asif Masih, son of Shuker Masih, Robin Masih, son of Younas Masih, Afzal Masih, son of Nazir Masih, Irfan Masih, son of Nazir Masih and Kashif Masih, whose father is unknown.
At the time of writing, all of the five Christian youths still were behind the bars at the Sargodha Cantonment Police Station, and their family members have alleged that they were still being interrogated and that the police were unjustly harassing and torturing their sons.
“They couldn’t have done the robbery,” said one of them, “because at the time and date of the robbery all of us and our sons were at the wedding ceremony of the younger brother of Christian Provincial Legislator, Tahir Naveed Chaudhary.”
ANS has tried several time to contact the investigating officer of the case but was unable to talk with him to get his side of the story.
The families of those arrested said that they had noted that the police were only arresting Christian villagers, but not Muslims, and one said that the police were treating their boys in a “disdainful and discriminatory way.”
One pointed out to me that each of those who had been arrested “were deplorably impoverished Christians who were farmhands or brick kiln laborers.”
Despite the efforts of Christian legislator, Tahir Naveed Chaudhary, who has repeatedly assured the police that boys were “innocent”, they were still in custody at press time.