London: (by Hannah Chowdhry and Juliet Chowdhry) A Christian Community Hall was locked by the son of Muslim Man who later claimed ownership without authority.
Christians were kept out of their own building for 24 hours after police refused to take action.
BACA intervention resulted in improved police action and a return of the property.
A few days later a Muslim mob tore down the gates of the church and began desecrating a cross on the gate,
When a Christian man objected against the forced trespass, he and his were attacked by the Muslim mob.
A video showing a Christian community centre in Kasur around 16 Marla (1 Marla = 272.25sq/ft) in size, being illegally locked by a Muslim youth became viral across Pak-Christian social media on 25th August 2022. The video alarmed many Pakistani Christians because of the brazen attitude of the Muslim man. Muhammad Faisal (16 yrs) could be seen breaking the lock at the gates of the hall and replacing it with a new lock. Mr Faisal then challenged the upset Christian man who was recording his actions, to show the video to whomever he wanted.
A local Christian leader George Choudhary called the 15 emergency telephone line, and requested assistance via emergency police. The 15 operator patched Mr Choudhary through to the local police who took details of the incident and a team of police arrived at the community centre within 25 minutes. On arrival Police officers took statements from Mr Choudhary, Ashraf Masih (40 yrs) and Pastor Iqbal Masih (45 yrs).
The police did not take any further action against the Muslim youth who had illegally occupied the church. Instead they asked Christian leaders to arrive at City Police Station, Kasur on 26th August 2022 for a face to face discussion with the opponent party led by 45-year-old Mr Shehzad Goga (father of Mr Faisal) to discuss ways to resolve the conflict.
The next day (26th August), Shehzad Goga instigated a mob of around 250 Muslims who surrounded the local police station, by sharing false news that Christians wanted to built a church over the ground of the community hall. Christians who were travelling to the police station saw the enraged Muslims and became anxious. Members of all 8 Christian families fled the town of Katal Garhi. This meant that only Jarsoom Bhatti (40 yrs) and 43-year-old Ch. Manzoor Gujar (Muslim friend of the Christians ) were able to reach the police station to represent the Christian community.
At police station Ch. Manzoor Gujar informed the mob that Christians are peaceful and had no intention to build a church. He was a calming influence and the majority of the Muslims dispersed, however around 20 men in support of Mr Goga stayed at the police station.
During the meeting between both parties presided over by local police, Ch. Manzoor Gujar informed those gathered that the community hall belonged to local Christians, from a time long before he was born. However, Shehzad Goga claimed that the hall belonged to Muslims. Christians explained that the Community centre itself was donated to local Christians by a Christian man who emigrated from Pakistan in the 1960’s probably to Britain. Since then the hall was being used for wedding receptions, celebrations and community functions and the building was not being used as a church.
Police Senior House Officer (SHO) Dr. Zulifqar initially sided with Christians and accepted that they had been using the hall for many years without complaint. He reprimanded Mr. Goga and his accomplice for their actions and. He then gave the key for the new lock on the door of the hall to Ch. Manzoor to hand over to Christians. The SHO then asked for 4 Christians and 4 Muslims to form a Joint Investigation Team (JIT). The group would assemble the facts regarding ownership and then present them to the police station as soon as possible. Ch.Manzoor was chosen by the police to preside over the group.
The next day around 4pm, Shehzad Goga inscribed “Ya Allah, Ya Muhammad. This property is Shamilat (community land [click here]), on the pillars of the community hall main gate.
George Choudhary (46 yrs), described the incident, he said:
“He was hurling abuses at the Christian community while spraying this message in broad daylight.
“He threatened Christians of dire consequences, if someone tried to remove it.
“It felt as if Muslims were planning to ensnare us under false blasphemy charges, or would burn our houses like they have done to other Christians before.
“The community was terrified many fled their homes again fearing an attack.”
Mr Choudhary immediately called SHO Dr. Zulifqar who refused any help. Mr Choudhary alleges that he was informed that the matter beyond his power, and must be reported to the DPO. George Choudhary along with Pastor Iqbal and others went to the office of DPO Syed Imran Karamat Bukhari but he was absent from his office. Mr Choudhary then went to the office of Superintendent (SP) of Kasur Police and informed him about the incident.
SP Azhar Javed immediately called Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) Asif Bhatti the investigation officer and strictly ordered him to remove the written inscription from the pillar.
The ASI along with other policemen visited the community hall and removed the inscription from the pillars, hours later. However, Christians were asked to stay in their houses as the situation was very critical and were not offered any protection.
The JIT formed by the SHO could not meet as Ch. Manzoor was out of the city for personal reasons. However on 20th September, an agreement was written by the Muslim faction stating that Muslims would not interfere and trespass at the community hall. However if they ever needed use of the hall, the Christians would allow them free access and permit use. Christians refused to sign the agreement.
Two days later, on 22nd September, around 5:00pm a gang of Muslim youth headed by Mehnga, Shan Ilahi, Mocha, Faisal, Raja, Bhola, Shehzad (uncle of Mr Goga) and some unknown cohorts attacked the church building. They pulled down the fence and main gate of the community hall and stamped over the cross emblem on the gate in an act of defiance and hate. When Ashraf Masih a local Christian asked them not damage the property, the men attacked Ashraf Masih who ran into hos home for safety.
They gang broke into and entered his house where they beat him with clubs and kicks and also slapped and intimidated his wife Shaheen Bibi (45 yrs) and his sister-in-law married to his brother who was present in the shared home. They tore their clothes during the violence which the whole street witnessed.
The frightened Christian community neither retaliated or helped the beleaguered family that was attacked before them. They were all fearful that they would become the next targets and froze on the spot. However, Mr Choudhary called emergency services and police arrived in minutes. The police witnessed the crime and arrested the culprits.
Next morning on 23rd September, Jarsoom Bhatti called our operations manager and informed him about the previous night. He sought help in approaching the District Police Officer (DPO) for Kasur and British Asian Christian Association are well known for the support we provide. Our BACA team arrived in Kasur and met all the Christian families. After taking a report they travelled to the office of the DPO with Ashraf Masih, Pastor Iqbal and Jarsoom Bhatti.
The DPO immediately ordered the ASI to register an First Information Report (FIR) against the culprits. FIR No.894/22 was registered by the police against the named attackers under sections 148, 149, 354, 452 and 506 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
148. Rioting, armed with deadly weapon:
Whoever is guilty of rioting, being armed with a deadly weapon or with anything which, used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
149. Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object:
If an offence is committed by any member of an unlawful assembly in prosecution of the common object of that assembly, or such as the members of that assembly knew to be likely to be committed in prosecution of that object, every person who, at the time of the committing of that offence, is a member of the same assembly, is guilty of that offence.
354. Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty:
Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years or with fine, or with both.
52. House-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint:
Whoever commits house-trespass having made preparation for causing hurt to any person or for assaulting any person, or for wrongfully restraining any person, or for putting any person in fear of hurt, or of assault, or of wrongful restraint, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.
506. Punishment for criminal intimidation:
Whoever commences the offence of criminal intimidation shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.
If threat be to cause death or grievous hurt, etc.: And if the threat be to cause death or grievous hurt, or to cause the destruction of any property by fire, or to cause an offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years, or to impute unchastity to a woman, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both.
BACA has a copy of the FIR. At this point all the attackers were locked up in police cells. L-R BACA Officer, George Choudhary, Ashraf Masih, and Jarsoom Bhatti Three days later (26th September) the ASI repeatedly called Ashraf Masih to come to Kasur Police Station to identify the unknown persons in the FIR they raised. Christians were invited to view photos of local rogues and to take part in a photofit identification process.
Around 5pm, Ashraf Masih, George Choudhary, Shahid Masih and Aslam arrived at the police station to take part in the identification programme. The ASI however then began questioning the Christians about the incident and even though local police had witnessed the attack the 4 men were arrested under a counter FIR No. 898/22 at 8pm. 8 other men were named on the FIR:
8.Aslam Masih and
Worse still 7/8 other unknown Christian men were also mentioned on the FIR.
The FIR was registered under the same sections of the Pakistan Penal Code as Muslims though Section 354 was replaced with section 353 and Section 186 was added:
353. Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty:
Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any person being a public servant in the execution of his duty as such public servant, or with intent to prevent or deter that person from discharging his duty as such public servant, or in consequence of anything done or attempted to be done by such person in the lawful discharge of his duty as such public servant, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine or with both.
186. Obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions:
Whoever voluntarily obstructs any public servant in the discharge of his public functions, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to 68[one thousand five hundred rupees] 68 , or with both.
Though Christians had not been involved in any retaliation they were being accused of confronting Muslims with clubs and armed weapons and rioting on Kachehri Road, Kasur. The charges are extremely surprising as Police were on the scene very quickly and for three days had only arrested Muslims who they had identified as the culprits for the attack. Police have now stated that Christians obstructed justice but this was not mentioned for 3 days after the Muslim vandals had already been arrested and a very different story written up in the initial police report (FIR).
The whole Christian community were terrified and men fled from their houses for fear of being arrested by the police who seemed adamant to implicate innocent Christians.
British Asian Christian Association’s team provided the arrested Christian men with food in their police cell, after the fearful community pleaded with them to help. No-one from the community was ready to visit the police station for fear the police would arrest them and BACA acted as a conduit for information sharing.
The next day police brought Ashraf Masih, George, Shahid and Aslam to the court. BACA arranged a solicitor for them and Advocate Malik Riaz applied for bail before Additional Sessions Judge Mr Aftab. He stated the innocence of the men and brought to the judges attention that police had arrived to the scene of the crime expediently and had only arrested Muslims in the first instance, believing only they were perpetrators. Bails was granted for the 4 Christian men and they were released on 27th September.
British Asian Christian Association, is providing a solicitor to fight various challenges for this Christian Community. The legal work is complicated and will be lengthy. The cost of a solicitor will be around £1500 and our are visiting this community regularly providing counselling and prayer support to help build their confidence. Please help us continue this work by donating (here) .
Ashraf Masih, said:
“We were shocked that Police took the action of arresting us.
“It seems they desire that we come to an agreement with the Muslims and are not seeking justice.
“We are thankful that BACA came to our rescue and provided a solicitor.
“We will now fight to clear our names.
“We are praying that these bandits are convicted for their crimes so that we can feel safe again.”
Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, said:
“These Christians have gone through a harrowing experience.
“They have been beaten quite brutally and then accused of violence themselves though none of them retaliated.
“The wheels of justice are slow but the fact that Police who arrived on the scene rapidly arrested Muslim vandals in the first interest, means we have a good chance for justice.
“The fact police used identification of persons involved in the attack on Christians as a pretext to arrest them, is despicable.
“Our solicitor will also be pursuing and investigation into how the local Police handled the case.
“We will strive to ensure the building that was donated to Christians by a family who left for the west decades ago, remains in their hands.
“Our work continues with the community and we visit regularly and pray with families, we are doing our best to lift morale after such a pernicious attack.”