By Michael Ireland, Senior Reporter, ASSIST News Service, www.assistnews.net
GUJURANWALA, PAKISTAN (ANS, January 18, 2016) — A Pakistani Christian man has died whilst in custody of the notoriously brutal police force of Pakistan, according to the British Pakistani Christians Association (BPCA) www.britishpakistanichristians.org.
BPCA reports that Liaquat Masih (aged 47) — “the victim in this recent devastating police crime” — had been serving for fifteen years as driver for Raza Hameed, the son of Gujuranwala politician S.A. Hameed of ‘Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf’ (PTI). Liaquat was described as a model employee by other colleagues and was a devout Christian who attended church regularly, and was an Elder at his local church.
“Sadly, on November 15, 2015 he was arrested for theft under circumstances that are suspicious and are alleged to be false by family and friends, who state he was completely innocent and framed because he is a Christian,” said Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of BPCA.
BPCA says the allegation came from his employer who accused him of stealing gold from his home, despite the 15 years of loyal unbroken service he provided. ”The family believes this was an attempt to extort the money out of the family to replace the gold that had been stolen from them, as Mr Hameed had no insurance,” said Chowdhry. Arresting officers took Liaquat to the local police station in Rahwali Cantt, and he was later placed on judicial remand at Gujuranwala Prison.
BPCA reports Liaquat Masih was detained without evidence and tortured frequently in hope that he would yield to the police and confess to the crime. ”However, Liaquat continued to uphold his innocence and the torture increased in severity,” Chowdhry said.
BPCA said that on the day of Liaquat’s death his 20-year-old son Khurram, who was also arrested and tortured, witnessed his father being hung by his arms and beaten. “Finally his weakened and emaciated body (due to poor nourishment in the cells), gave in to the torture and Liaquat died on January 13, 2016,” Chowdhry said.
Sajid Mehmood, Station Head Officer told the BPCA: “The accused man Liaquat had a heart attack, so we transported him to the local hospital. Liaquat did not survive the attack.”
Mohammad Amin, Investigation officer, said: “Liaqat Masih was brought to the police station from Gujarnawala prison to answer a further allegation by his former employer. During the investigation, he had a stroke and was taken to the local hospital.”
Liaquat leaves behind his wife Rubina (aged 40 ) and four children, Khurram (20), Kinza (15), Adeel (12), and Zarish (9). Hundreds of Christians from across Pakistan attended the wake to share their condolences and show solidarity.
Police officers delayed informing the family of the death by over 24 hours, a process local Christians believe allowed the local constabulary to hide evidence of their wrongdoing and gave an opportunity for preparation and synchronization of their alibi, the BPCA said in its report.
Questions are being asked about Liaquat’s death. His passing away whilst in custody is the fourth incident of a Christian being killed in a prison cell by alleged police brutality, since BPCA was founded. Robert Danish was the first reported incident – killed September 15, 2009. BPCA later reported the death of Qamar David in similar circumstances – killed March 15, 2011, and then on March 11, 2015 BPCA reported on the murder of Zubair Rashid.
Wilson Chowdhry stated: “In all previous cases police refused to investigate police brutality and alleged that the three men had committed suicide. Sadly, during court investigation of each and every one of those cases judges determined paucity of evidence prevented action against the perpetrators of the torture. Thus all the police implicated in the violence were exonerated — a judgement we expect to be replicated for the death of Liaquat Masih.”
He continued: “Local Christians were incensed by this alleged murder and refusal by local police to lodge an investigation on the accused police officers responsible for the death of Liaquat Masih. Hundreds of them protested along the Grand Trunk Road in a show of solidarity. Despite the demonstration being peaceful, Gujaranwala Police enacted a Lathi (baton) charge and injured two women and 4 young men.”
Michael Masih, one of the victims in the attack, said: “We were protesting peacefully and simply demanding justice, but police started beating us with sticks, they were indiscriminate and hurt women and children and struck many blows on individuals rather than a single blow to move them on. I am still in pain and have severe bruising, despite the fear that police might attack us again at the wake today, I decided to come out in solidarity.”
Shamim Masih, Lead Reporter for the BPCA, said: “This attack highlights the failure of legal bodies to protect innocent Christians who are a target for persecution. Without evidence a man was detained in a cell for over a month and regularly tortured. This should not happen in any civilized society.”
Masih continued: “Some of the young Christian men were booked by police officer and face charges for stirring up a mob, despite the protest being completely peaceful. These same accused have been threatened with violence to themselves and their families if they pursue any charges against the police. Such police activity is common and is designed to stop dissent so that the prevailing police corruption is never questioned and dissenters are silenced. It is a wholly pernicious act that should be clamped down upon by our government.”
BPCA said two famous ‘fly on the wall’ TV series about the breakdown of law in the eponymous cities shed light on the application of justice in Pakistan. “Perhaps a third series should be named Gujaranwala Guardians [of the law],” said Chowdhry.
Chowdhry concluded: “The fact that a Christian man could be detained without evidence for so long is a travesty of justice. The police brutality that Liaquat and others suffered, causing their death, is enacted in such impunity that there is no incentive for termination. Instead of clamping down on this corruption, Pakistani authorities collaborate to brush the concern under the carpet by falsifying evidence and testimonies synchronizing police alibis. This ongoing insouciance illustrates the dire status of Pakistani Christians, which shows no sign of improving.”
BPCA has initiated a fund to fight for justice for this widowed mother, and also wishes to contribute towards the funeral costs and to support the family with six month’s rent at, and the monthly school for each child still at school.
Please contact BPCA for details : firstname.lastname@example.org
“With your support, we hope to change the lives of millions of Christians in Pakistan,” Chowdhry said.
Photo captions: 1) Hundreds turn out for Masih’s wake (Courtesy BPCA). 2) Masih’s family. (Courtesy BPCA). 3) Rubina speaks to Shamim Masih of the BPCA (Courtesy BPCA). 4) Michael Ireland.
About the Writer: Michael Ireland is a Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as a volunteer Internet Journalist and Ordained Minister who has served with ASSIST Ministries and ASSIST News Service since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. Click http://paper.li/Michael_ASSIST/1410485204 to see a daily digest of Michael’s stories for ANS.
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