By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (ANS – July 20, 2016) – A Christian Pakistani man has alleged that his arms were chopped off for not converting to Islam. Now he is seeking justice.
Aqueel Masih, who worked at a petrol [gasoline] station in the LDA quarter area of Lahore, was kidnapped on June 24, 2016 by Islamists before having his arms severed. He was then taken to a local hospital, and was unconscious upon arrival.
According to the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), on July 12, 2016, Aqueel Masih, alongside a local Christian elder, Sam Bhatti, a member of the Minorities Advisory Council of Punjab, registered a complaint at Ghalib Market Police Station, that three men had hacked off his arms with axes.
The report describes how Mr. Masih, who had been working at a petrol pump for over 4 years, where he refueled vehicles and conducted vehicle servicing and minor repairs, was approached by two Muslim men, who refueled their cars and asked him to go with them to their town for minor repairs on another vehicle.
Then, he alleged, the men hacked off his arms during an ensuing argument. The Police First Information Report (FIR), however, does not include any reference to Mr Masih’s arms being lopped off for not converting to Islam, an exclusion that BPCA says “has caused serious debate across the entire country.”
Now, BPCA says that BPCA officers in Pakistan have spoken with Sam Bhatti and Aqueel Masih, who have both explained that the local Police officer were not willing to include this in the original FIR, through a fear of not being able to proceed with the crime registration or harsher treatment, and so they omitted this fact from the final submission.
“Conflicting stories have been put out in Pakistani media, especially media with a strong Islamic bias,” said a BPCA spokesperson. “These media groups have been suggesting that Mr. Masih has fabricated the story and that the argument was over a drugs deal gone wrong. However, we have interviewed Masih and his family and, although he has dabbled in Cannabis smoking, he has no serious drug abuse history and contends that there would be no reason for a drug baron to target him in this way.
“Aqueel Masih has revealed to us that his father has converted to Islam and the two men had tried to forcibly convert him to the faith, arguing that due to his father’s conversion he had no right to be a Christian. When he refused, his arms were painfully removed in a brutal fashion with a less then sharp axe. There you have a motive, but we believe this detail will fail to register with the majority of Muslims in Pakistan, who adhere to a hardline ideology.
“Mr. Masih was lucid when they hacked of the first arm but slipped into unconsciousness rapidly and was unaware that the second arm had been removed until he awoke much later in hospital. He has has also spoken of a brutal beating before his arms were severed off. His head was beaten and required 18 stitches and his whole body was bruised.”
After meeting with Mr. Masih, Kanwal Amar, a local BPCA officer, said: “There are so many cases of violence at the hands of extremists used against Christians who do not convert to Islam, but Aqueel’s case is one of the worst and certainly very gruesome.
“Aqueel is frightened about his future and feels really helpless. He wants justice and protection form statutory authorities, and thus far the local police have been far from supportive.”
BPCA says that in a “bizarre twist” local Police also seemed to “obviate from the truth,” which they say is “an illustration of their self-protectionism.”
To illustrate this, ANS has learned that the Police immediately sent out a counter press release stating that they had concluded that Aqueel’s arms had been cut off during a train accident, believing him to be a heavy drug user and addict.
“This despite any report from the train authorities or any professional medical report,” said the BPCA spokesperson. “Mr. Masih has confirmed that the only medical analysis of his condition happened a few days ago, after the Police made their statement. Their stance has surprised many and the corruption exhibited highlights the difficulties Christian face when pursuing justice in a system that is stacked against them.”
Three men have now been arrested and are being investigated while they are in custody. However, according to BPCA, it is believed that justice will be “hard to obtain,” because Mr. Masih is a Christian and “the majority of Muslims in Pakistan are oblivious to the extremism that has consumed the country.”
“There is a pervading belief that Christians make up these stories of persecution and that all Christians are drug and alcohol addicts,” added the spokesperson.
BPCA has now been asked to support Aqueel Masih with medical, legal and sustenance costs. They say that the loss of two major limbs has destroyed his quality of life and hopes for a future. They say that Pakistan does not have either a social or welfare model for disability.
“The nation simply has nothing to help severely disabled people adapt to life after sever disablement,” said their spokesperson.
If you would like to help them make his life “somewhat more palatable” please click here: https://britishpakistanichristians.worldsecuresystems.com/donate.
Please also consider signing and sharing this petition at: http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/justice-for-aqueel-masih.
For an interview please call Wilson Chowdhry on +44 (0) 7854 972 343 or +44 (0) 208 514 0861. Their website is: www.britishpakistanichristians.org.
Photo captions: 1) Aqueel (BPCA). 2) Dan Wooding with his BPCA award.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, who worked with the Sudan Interior Mission, now known as SIM. He now lives in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for some 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of some 45 books. In addition, he has a radio program and two TV shows all based in Southern California. Dan has been given a special award by the BPCA for many years of reporting of the persecution of Christians in Pakistan.
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