Saturday, October 17, 2009
Pakistani court to hear bail petition of two Christian men arrested over Gojra violence on Oct. 20
By Dan Wooding and Sheraz Khurram Khan
Special to ASSIST News Service
TOBA TEK SINGH, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- A Pakistani court which, on Saturday, was set to hear the bail petitions of Noman Shahu and Naveed Shahu, two Christian men who were arrested by police after they were accused of perpetrating violence in Gojra in August, will now hear the bail petitions on Tuesday, October 20, ANS has learned.
Some 64 Christian families in Gojra were rendered homeless as a result of August violence.
Joseph Francis, National Director of Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), who moved the bail petition on behalf of the two Christian men, told ANS that the court could not hear the case on Saturday due to a power cut.
ANS has learned that a murder case has been registered against Naveed Shahu under section 302 of Penal Code of Pakistan (PPC) whereas Nouman Shahu has been accused of causing injuries to people and a case under section 324 of PPC has been registered against him.
Francis said that he had taken a video with him to show to the judge that Christians had not opened fire and instead Muslims had attacked Christians. According to Francis the judge told him that he would view the video on Tuesday.
ANS has also learned that the same court on October 20 is going to hear bail petitions of some Muslim men who were named in the police First Information Report over the Gojra violence.
When ANS drew his attention to some media reports suggesting that six more Muslims named in police First Information Report (FIR) over Gojra violence have been released he said he could not confirm it as yet.
“Christians are being treated unjustly after Gojra violence. The 129 Christians accused of provoking Gojra violence live in constant fear of being arrested,” said Mr. Francis.
Mr. Francis said they were trying to get the case against Christians quashed.
Pointing to the double-standards of the Punjab government when it came to giving compensation money, he added: “Each of the Christian victim family received 500000 Pakistani rupees ($6,023.37 USD) whereas the family of a Muslim man who had allegedly attacked Christians’ house received 1,000,000 Pakistani rupees ($12,046.74 USD). Asif, the Muslim man suffered injuries during Gojra violence and died later in Allied Hospital Faisalabad.
He went on to say that the police declared the principal culprit behind Gojra violence Qadeer Awan innocent who he said had allegedly incited people to set Christians houses on fire. Mr. Francis alleged that the man had backing of Mian Shahbaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of Province Punjab. He said he would challenge release of Qadeer Awan in High Court.
Mr. Francis alleged that courts had released almost all Muslim men who were named in Police FIR for torching houses in Korian, a village in province Punjab near Gojra where over 50 houses were burnt by extremist over blasphemy rumours on July 31. The Christian residents of Korian are living in tents in a graveyard currently, hoping to move to their houses which are being reconstructed.
“If they (Muslims) are innocent then who set Christians’ houses on fire? This of course is not a work of angels,” said Francis in a satiric vein.
Asked if they had taken up case of Robert nicknamed as Fanish or Falish, a 22 year old Christian man who died in police custody last month, Mr. Francis said he would soon get a copy of Robert’s post-mortem.
He said that the Lahore High Court ordered that a copy of the post-mortem report be given to him (Joseph Francis), police investigation officer and Medical Superintendent Civil Hospital Sialkot.
He vowed to take legal action against the concerned authority in case the autopsy report proved that Robert had been killed extra-judicially. “We would request United Nation’s team to investigate the matter”, said Francis.
The human rights activist told ANS that he was going to urge United Nation’s office in Pakistan to ensure protection of Pakistani minorities under Geneva Convention of 1948.
He confided to ANS that he was meeting ambassadors of different countries in Islamabad and was briefing them about the situation of Christians in general and the misuse of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws in particular.
ANS understands that the country’s blasphemy laws are a tool in the hands of extremists to settle personal scores. The Christians of Pakistan have vociferously demanded the scrapping of the laws because they perceive them to be perpetual threat to their security and well-being.
Reacting to Muslims named in Police FIR after Gojra violence Sohail Johnson, the Chief Coordinator of the Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan said that “Pakistani Christians won’t get justice”. He condemned authorities for the delay they made in lodging FIR against perpetrators of Gojra violence. He said his ministry started focusing its attention on extending relief to victims of Gojra and Korian “after our hopes of Christians getting justice waned.”
Johnson said the plight of Christians in Korian was even worse than Christian victims of violence in Gojra “My heart bleeds when I see their helplessness. A meal a day was beyond them, he said.
He criticized district administration for treating them like beggars while handing them food. He said the SLMP put up a “Free Food Stall” for the Christian victims of Korian. “We started it from mid of August and we are still providing them food,” he said.
In reply to a question Mr. Johnson said his ministry had also provided quilts, mattresses and other essentials. “We plan to provide them with other daily use items once they have moved to their houses which are being re- constructed.”
The incidents of Korian and Gojra instilled fear among Christians. They sleep with this overwhelming feeling of fear and insecurity and they wake up with the same.
He urged the international community to exercise its influence on Pakistan government to get country’s disputed blasphemy laws repealed. The expatriate Pakistani Christians, he said, should also play a proactive role for scrapping of the “killer law.”
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