Two Christians allegedly accused for blasphemy; CLAAS issues report

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Tariq Masih aged 25, and Arif Masih aged 27 (brothers) has been allegedly accused of blasphemy on October 27, 2013 by a local Muhammad Zahid. A nominated case FIR no. 533/13 offence under section 295/B according to the Pakistan Penal Code has been registered against Tariq and Arif after being accused of blasphemy against the Quran by Khuram Shahzad Wadera on October 30, 2013 at Sadder Police Station Wazirabad. Their families have to flee for fear of being killed after severe threat by the local Muslims.
Tariq Masih, a fireworks vendor says that he is innocent: as he bought fireworks material from a factory owned by Muslims. He has his own store where he sells fireworks in Thatta Faqirullah, Wazirabad, District Gujranwala, (Punjab) and also supply material for weddings and other celebrations in the city. On October 25, he sold Muhammad Zahid (one of the neighbors) a set of 5 fireworks (pyrotechnics) for his wedding party. Since some of them failed to go off, some of the wedding guests opened them to see why they did not work and found that the powders were wrapped in pages containing verses of the Quran.
The discovery shocked the family and their Muslim guests who became aggressive and immediately called upon the Muslims of area and a mob of about 30 people attacked Tariq’s family at their house. They alleged and held responsible Tariq for blasphemy as he sold the fireworks material.
CLAAS was informed by a local, Dr. Arif Masih about an overwrought situation in the area due to the false allegation of blasphemy leveled against two Christian boys Tariq
and Arif at Thatta Faqirullah a big and old settlement of Christians over the years. Following the information the team consisting on Mr. Asher Sarfraz (Field Officer CLAAS), Mr. Sohail Habel (Accounts Officer CLAAS), Mrs. Umza Neelam (Assistant Accounts Officer CLAAS) and Mrs. Huma George (Assistant In-Charge legal department CLAAS) and Umerdraz Karamat (volunteer) reached at the occurrence place to help Christians and to collect the real facts behind the allegations.
Team reached the place at about 2:45 pm and approached Catholic St. Mary’s Church and met with a group of about 70 local Christians including Fr. Baber (priest of Catholic Church), Dr. Arif Masih, Yousaf Masih, Farukh Chaudhry (Social Worker) and Mr. Naeem Bhatti (Social Worker), they already waiting for the team.
Fr. Baber and others informed the team about the incident and asked for legal help and protection of the victims and their families. Fr. Babar also introduced Pervaiz Masih with the team he was a parental uncle of Tariq Masih.
Pervaiz Masih aged 37 informed CLAAS that he is parental uncle of Tariq and live in the same locality. He has two brothers and four sisters they all married and settled in their families. While his parents died several years ago but they living in joint family system. Arif Yousaf aged 28 and Waris Yousaf aged 22 are government servant in Pakistan railways while Tariq has his own store of fireworks, he started about 5 months ago and supply pyrotechnics to use in marriages and other celebrations. Tariq is married with Abida and recently blessed with a baby girl. Pervaiz Masih also said that Tariq Masih do not manufacture fireworks, he buy them from a factory near Gujranwala and do not know what materials they use. Moreover, these factories are owned by Muslims and no Christian works inside there." He added that locals of Thatta Faqirullah did not believe him and called on the police to arrest him and demanded for an exemplary punishment for him and his family, as he insulted Islam and humiliated Quran. Muslims also openly threatened that if the police do not act; they will hunt and kill him and his all family themselves.
He further said that on October 25, Mohammad Zahid demanded 5 pyrotechnics from Tariq Masih for his wedding ceremony, there was shortage of fireworks material in his store but he asked Zahid to wait and brought 5 pyrotechnics from another local store owned by Muslim. The next day on October 26, 2013 at about 6:00 pm some Muslims inquired with Tariq Yousaf that he used Quran pages to wrap firework powder to make pyrotechnics. Tariq explained them that he is an educated man and well aware what he would have to suffer, and he do not manufacture fireworks at home he brings them from factory owned by Muslims, so the people returned back.
After some time, the same evening a local Muslim Khurram Wadeera s/o Murad cast Faqeer, aged 25, along with a mob of about 30 approached Tariq’s place and allegedly accused Tariq and Munawar (Tariq’s helper in the store) for blasphemy. Tariq again explained that he do not make the material at home, he use to bring it from the factory, other Muslims got infuriated and pressurized Tariq to admit the crime. Tariq and Munawar assaulted by the Muslim attackers and threatened for life. They were called as atheist and should be killed.
The Christian neighbors gathered and also Shoukat Masih and Younis Masih (Tariq’s uncles) requested Khurram and other Muslims to leave them just for the sake of Allah. They left the scene but with the threat of severe consequences they would have to face. After this incident Tariq Yousaf and Munawar, along with their families, fled from the area, fearing for their lives. On the other side on October 27, 2013 Khurram discussed this issue among religious scholars and also filed an application for the registration of Blasphemy case against Tariq and Munawar in Saddar Police Station Wazeerabad. The same evening police raided on Tariq’s house for his possible arrest
under blasphemy accusations. Police did not find Tariq Maish at home but arrested his brothers Arif Yousaf and Waris Yousaf and kept them in illegal custody.
On October 29, 2013 police registered a blasphemy case against Tariq Yousaf and his brother Arif Yousaf a case FIR no. 533/13 offence under section 295/B PPC at Saddar Police Station Wazirabad.
Fr. Baber said that he has informed all churches and Christian organizations about the incident because need moral and legal support in this fake blasphemy case. He said that Islamic organizations in Pakistan are in power and always ready to kill Christians in the name of religion. Everyone knows that Muslims use blasphemy law for their personal interests, but there is no stop, how long the Christians would be abused by this law. Fr. said that we are not agreed to hand over Tariq Yousaf in custody of police as they need to be assured that the police officials will not torture him in custody as we have bitter experiences in past when we lost two brothers in Faisalabad, Robert Fanish in Sialkot and Adnan Riaz in Shirqpur, were killed in police custody after brutal torture.
CLAAS findings:
After getting the facts CLAAS team find the following 1- The registered case of blasphemy against Tariq Yousaf and Arif Yousaf is fake. 2- Muhammad Zahid, a neighbor, must have something personal with Tariq Yousaf, and his brother therefore the missed pyrotechnics were opened and later they allegedly accused Tariq and his brother for blasphemy in the registered case FIR.
3- Arif is a government servant and nominated in the blasphemy case just because he was the brother of Tariq Yousaf.
4- It is trending that police use to get family members in custody in blasphemy cases while the accused absconded.
5- Police registered the case FIR against Tariq Yousaf and Arif Yousaf without any investigation. It is sad that the marginalized are being victimized, and poor people from minority groups have to suffer in fake blasphemy cases and killed by the violent and aggressive mobs on the name of religion.

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