Thursday, June 24, 2010

Okara landlord ‘detains’ 43 Christians as punishment

Feel the love.  Pakistani Muslims continue their daily persecution of Christians, and the government does nothing about it.


Okara landlord ‘detains’ 43 Christians as punishment

* Demands family produces his daughter who allegedly eloped with Christian boy or face death
* Warns of burning alive detainees in their houses

By Afnan Khan Lodhi

LAHORE: A landlord based in Okara has allegedly detained at least 43 Christians of a family after his daughter eloped with a Christian boy a few days back.

The landlord has threatened killing all the detainees if the couple is not handed over to him.

One of the relatives of the detained Christians, Irshad Masih, told Daily Times that the detainees were residents of village 11-1/L of Renala Khurd tehsil. He said there are around 10 houses of Christians in a village in the tehsil and the landlord, Muhammad Ashraf, has detained all of them in their houses.

Irshad said Ashraf’s armed guards were manning the area around the detainees’ houses and have warned of burning the people alive in their houses if the family failed to produce the eloped couple. He said the issue developed when his cousin Basharat Masih, who worked as a cook with an army colonel in Rawalpindi quit his job and moved to the village, where he allegedly developed relations with a Muslim girl named Nadia.

Irshad said Nadia’s mother Shahnaz Bibi visited Basharat’s house in the evening of June 21 and told his mother that Nadia had been missing since morning, asking her if she had a clue about Nadia’s whereabouts.

Shahnaz also warned the family that they should expel Basharat from the village or her family would kill him.

Irshad said after this development, they warned Basharat to stay away from the village, and the family had no contact with him since that day.

He said now the whole village had turned against the Christians living in the area, adding that the detainees have been deprived of their telephones and the landlord, Ashraf, was personally receiving the phone calls of the detained Christians.

Irshad said village elders Lambardar Muhammad Jamil, Muhammad Aslam Fauji and Muhammad Akram were also leading the drive against the Christians with Ashraf, and were continuously harassing the relatives to produce the couple or else be ready to see their relatives burnt alive in their own houses.

He said the relatives had approached the police to get an FIR registered and to demand the provision of security, but the police had refused to cooperate, saying it was a religious issue and the Christians should heed Ashraf’s demands.

Irshad told Daily Times that he was also receiving death threats for pursuing the case of his detained relatives.

He said the family had no clue about Basharat or Nadia’s whereabouts and it could not be said for sure if the two were together or not.

Irshad said one of his friends had made him visit a non-government organisation, Community Development Initiative, which had taken him to a court of law for justice.

CDI Executive Director Asif Aqeel and field officer Napolean Qayyum told Daily Times that they had taken the case to the court in order to get a bailiff appointed for securing the detainees’ release.

The case was presented before Renala Khurd District and Sessions Judge Shafiqur Rehman Khan who issued directions to the SHO concerned to produce the detainees on June 25.