Sajid Masih jumped from a window in the Punjab police headquarters to escape police abuse. After days of waiting at the hospital, he was operated on his legs yesterday. Christian leaders call for an independent inquiry, demanding justice. His cousin Patras is still in custody for alleged blasphemy.
Lahore (AsiaNews) - Pakistan's Catholic and Protestant leaders have condemned the torture inflicted on Sajid Masih, a 24-year-old Punjab Christian who jumped from the fourth floor of a police station during interrogation in the presence of his cousin Patras, 17, who is accused of blasphemy.
Christian leaders want the Supreme Court drop the case of attempted suicide and investigate what really happened, including the abuse and torture suffered by the two young men at the hands of the police.
Yesterday, the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan (CBCP) issued a statement signed by its president, Mgr Joseph Arshad; national director, Fr Emmanuel Yousaf (Mani); and executive director, Cecil S. Chaudhry.
In light of the evidence available, the letter says “The Supreme Court should take immediate Suo Motu action to withdraw the FIR* against Sajid Masih for attempted suicide because in the light of evidence he was attempting to escape from the physical and psychological torture while also being forced to sexually abuse his minor cousin. The state should conduct an independent inquiry, ensuring a fair trial and access to justice for the accused.”
The letter goes on to lament that "even in hospital he [Sajid Masih] is being discriminated against and doctors are not operating on him, making excuses and using delaying tactics”.
What is more, “security should be provided to the accused and their family in order to prevent the real and present threat of violence and take strict action against the perpetrators."
Sajid Masih is currently in hospital in stable conditions. Yesterday he finally underwent surgery on his fractured legs. The family reports that the four-hour operation went well.
Now the major concern is a second delicate operation to the jaw. It should last eight hours, and take place some time over the next four to five days.
Sajid’s brother is grateful to Christians for showing their support and has asked them to continue to pray for the young man’s recovery.
Meanwhile, his cousin Patras is still under arrest, charged with posting blasphemous comments on Facebook.
According to the NCJP, 18 cases of blasphemy were recorded in 2017; 1.505 since 1985, often with mob attacks against religious minorities.
Pakistan’s Protestant Churches have also expressed concern, including Rev Amjat Niamat, the moderator at the Lahore Presbyterian Church of Pakistan. In a video released last Sunday, he spoke of growing insecurity among Christians.
“Our main complaint,” he says, “is that Christians accused of blasphemy are killed extra judicially, their family members are troubled and their settlements are burnt."
Addressing Muslims, he adds: "Do you think Christians are to be cut like vegetables? We eat the same food you eat and share the same problems every peaceful patriot Pakistani faces. We do not want to push our country into a civil war or a religious war. We are deeply concerned about the misuse of this law" on blasphemy.
"We appeal to the chief justice of Pakistan, to the army chief and to the FIA director to investigate the suicide attempt case as per Sajid statement and punish those responsible,” he pleads in the video.
“Stand with us and stop the misuse of this law. I question the silence of media and big anchors. Why can't they become our voices? We serve this country in education and healthcare but are treated as second class citizens.”
Finally, “Where are the political parties? I ask the entire Christian community to use their power of vote and unite in this difficult hour. Come out to fight for your dignity and rights or time will not forgive you. God supports those who are left helpless."
* FIR means First Information Report, which police prepare when they receive information about a cognisable offence.
(Shafique Khokhar contributed to this article)