By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
PAKISTAN (ANS – May 26, 2016) — Pakistan’s Anti-Terrorism (amendment) Act 2013 was introduced ostensibly to help bolster and empower government agencies, equipping them to crack down on terrorism financing or as stated “strengthen the provision concerning the offences of terrorism financing and to provide more effective enforcement measures against such offences.”
So said the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), who went on to say, “The Anti- Terrorism (amendment) Act 2013 also amends the definition of terrorism under section 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, by including threats and acts of terrorism against a ‘foreign government or population or an international organization.’
“The Anti-Terrorism (Second Amendment) Act 2013, further expands the definition of terrorism under section 6 of the Anti-Terrorism Act. Its definition, “the threat of terrorism” now includes “intimidating and terrorizing the public, social sectors, business community, security forces, Government installations, officials and law enforcement agencies.
“The bill also provides for preventative or pre-charge detention of 90 days for persons reasonably suspected of being involved with terrorism. The detention cannot be challenged in any court, and the detainee cannot ask “for release on bail or file a petition for habeas corpus (a hearing on whether custody is legal or not) in any court of law.”
A spokesperson for the London-based group said that when these laws were introduced many Pakistani Christians believed that the existence of these laws hailed an era of better protection from the whims of extremists, but in fact the laws have failed to curb three bomb attacks in the space of three years since the implementation of the laws.
“Sadly, this is not the lowest point in the fiasco that has undermined these laws. In fact, the laws are now being used to suppress minority Christians in a way no-one could have perceived, when the laws were initially promoted as a pivot in the battle against extremism,” added the BPCA spokesperson.
It then cited an incident that took place on May 19, 2016, when, on hearing loud screaming and wailing outside Christian Life Ministries Church, located at the Christian Town, Faisalabad, parishioners rushed out to the aid of two men who were being savagely beaten by local policemen. Police officers were viciously using the infamous “lathi” (large wooden truncheon) to torture the two Christian men.
Police officers reported that they arrested the men for “undertaking wheelies” on the road, while the two men said this was not true and allege that they intervened when the police officers “ogled and harassed women” entering the church for Thursday evening prayers.
BPCA said that when the parishioners and Pastor Kamal Chaugtai, a former elected Member of Punjab Assembly (MPA), came out to offer assistance, they provided a human shield preventing the violent onslaught of the Christian men being targeted.
“The kind gesture by the church unnerved the police officers, who felt threatened. In response the policemen shot indiscriminately in the air and in doing so one of the officers was injured,” said the spokesperson.
“Despite the absence of weapons amongst the parishioners the policemen called in reinforcements citing a terrorist act. Pastor Kamal, and many others, were arrested and placed in a prison cell where they languished all night.
“Christian men have allegedly been subjected to inhumane torture at the hands of the local police, including having been hung by their ankles and beaten with sticks. Police have registered First Incident Reports (FIR) against all those arrested which state they have been involved in acts of terrorism.
Most of the victims, including women and children, have been released after pressure from Christian leaders and NGO’s including the BPCA. However, it is reported that Pervez Younus Khokhar has “unfairly” been detained.
Pastor Kamal Chaugtai said: “I heard the commotion outside the church and came out to see what was wrong. When I tried to bring peace and settle the dispute, I found myself being arrested with other Christians who were also trying to calm down the agitated policemen.”
BPCA stated that Christians from across Pakistan organized a protest on May 23, 2016 calling for protecting against the “tyranny” of Pakistani Police officers. They demanded a review of the use of the recently adopted anti-terrorism laws within the Terrorism Act.
“They had been protesting for the release of all the innocent Christians who remain in detention,” said the spokesperson.
During the protest Pastor Kamal Chaugtai, Ex -MPA was suffering from heavy blood pressure and ear pain and has now been admitted to hospital, and BPCA has asked for prayer for this situation and for Kamal Chaugtai.
BPCA Officer, Naveed Aziz, attended the protest and met with victims. He said: “These arrests were made under a clear abuse of the countries anti-terrorism laws and have caused great suffering to local Christians. The torture of innocent people has riled local Christians who desperately want justice.”
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA, said: “The anti-terrorism laws of Pakistan were hailed as an opportunity to end extremism in the country. Yet this attack on an innocent Christian community highlights the pervading corruption of the police and other statutory authorities.
“Moreover, I am also reminded of how an innocent Christian man Aftab Bahadur was hung for a crime he could not have possibly committed, after these anti-terrorism measures removed the moratorium on the death sentence in Pakistan.
“Thus far, implementation of the new laws has impacted negatively on Christians. A review on anti-terrorism laws should be initiated with immediate effect so that other Christians are not persecuted in similar fashion.”
BCA says that Pervez Younus comes from an extremely impoverished background and his family is extremely apprehensive about his unwarranted detention.
His family have urged local authorities to take note of his unjustified arrest and have demanded his immediate release.
Sadly, Pervez is the sole bread winner for his family and his incarceration has left his family out of pocket and in dire straits.
The BPCA would like to offer help to the family and to provide the necessary legal aid to Pervez to help enact his release. To initiate legal aid, we require to raise £400 UK Pounds for a solicitor. We would also like to offer £200 UK Pounds for the family while they try to survive during the loss of income caused by Pervez’s time behind bars. If you would like to donate, please go to: https://britishpakistanichristians.worldsecuresystems.com/donate
For further information, please go to: http://www.britishpakistanichristians.org/
Photo: 1) Some of the protestors. 2) Entrance to Christian Life Ministries Church. 3) Naveed Aziz visits the place where the arrests took place. 4) 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, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 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 the author or co-author of some 45 books. He has one radio show and two TV programs all based in Southern California. Dan has received a special award from the BPCA for his reporting on the persecution of Pakistani Christians.
** You may republish this and any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net).