PAKISTAN: The killing of two Christian brothers is the result of the negligence and bias of the Punjab government and police
The abuse of the Blasphemy law, misuse of mosque loudspeakers and the impunity offered to Muslim extremists are the main causes of the persecution of religious minorities.
The shooting deaths of Rahid Emmanuel and Sajjid Emmanuel in broad daylight in front of hundreds of people in the district courts compound in Faisalabad on July 19 came as no surprise. As was expected Muslim extremists carried out the murder just five days after the issuance of an Urgent Appeal by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in which it was feared that they were vulnerable to attack. Both were in police custody since July 2nd. The AHRC had also demanded that immediate action be taken to provide protection for the men so that their case might be taken up in accordance with the laws and procedures of the country. Please see the Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-102-2010.
The investigation officer of Police, Mr. Muhammad Hussain was also seriously injured during the attack as he tried to seize one of the attackers all of whom escaped unhindered. The two brothers had been arrested on charges of Blasphemy on the complaint of a printer on July 2, 2010.
Both brothers were produced before the court of Civil Judge, Mr. Aamir Habib, for their remand. Banned Muslim extremist groups, which enjoy freedom from the government of Punjab province, made announcements through the mosque loudspeakers asking Muslims to gather at the district courts building when the Christian brothers would be produced. They also spread rumors one day before that the Christian brothers would be free to go home from the Civil Lines Police Station, Faisalabad.
During the court proceedings the investigating officer told the court that there was no evidence of Blasphemy against the brothers and that therefore the police had no cause to further remand them in custody. The court ordered that Rashid Emmanuel and Sajjid Emmanuel be held in Judicial custody until the next date to issue further orders.
As both the brothers came out from the court suddenly some persons emerged from the crowd and opened fire at them. The elder brother Rashid died instantly whereas the younger one Sajjid died on the way to hospital. The police officer, Muhammad Hussain also received a bullet injury and is in critical condition.
Despite the threats by extremist elements from the banned Muslim militant groups to kill the Christian brothers the administration of Faisalabad city and the Punjab government did not take any security measures for their protection. Only three police officials, including the investigation officer, were assigned for the production of the accused brothers at the court whereas the Christian community had already asked the administration to provide sufficient policemen to protect them.
The AHRC has also mentioned in its Urgent Appeal that violent rallies by radical Muslims in the area have called for the men's death, and Christians have reportedly begun to leave the neighbourhood. They fear that a new attack is planned for the end of the month, around the anniversary of a deadly attack on Christians 50km away in Korian village, Tehsil Gojra where six people were set alight and burned to death. Mosque loudspeakers are also being freely used to incite violence, which is illegal.
The killing of the Christian brothers in broad daylight was due to the sheer negligence and biased attitude of the Punjab provincial government and police. The Punjab government is notorious in appeasing the banned Muslim militant organisations. The Punjab provincial government, during the bye elections in 2009 has released some extremist leaders from the jails, who were involved in sectarian violence and killings, which helped them to win the elections. The younger brother of the Chief Minister of Punjab is also associated with one of the banned militant Muslim groups and is involved in spreading communal and sectarian violence.
It is very sad that after the killing of the two brothers some groups have attacked the Daud Nagar of Warispura, Faisalabad where there is 100,000 strong Christian communities. Different groups carried out processions inside the Christian area until the late hours of the night and threatened the residents. They warned them that they will face the same fate as happened in Gojra last year where nine people were killed and six were burned to death.
The other factor which suppresses the freedom of religious minority groups in Pakistan is the illegal use of loudspeakers from the mosques against the religious minorities as the easiest tool to instigate the Muslim population. The government is not taking any action against the misuse of loudspeakers. According to the law it is illegal for the loudspeakers in mosques to be used for anything other than Friday sermons in Arabic and the call to prayer.
Religious minority groups in Pakistan remain vulnerable due to the continued use and abuse of blasphemy charges, despite section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code. This must be strongly implemented if minorities are to be protected. Police who fail to follow the code and who operate under the directives of extremists in the community must face strong legal action. Charges of blasphemy are still met with the death penalty in Pakistan, and desecrating the Quran carries a life sentence.
The AHRC urges the government to appoint a judicial commission to probe the incident of killing of the two Christian brothers and the attacks on the Christian community, the high police officials must be prosecuted for their negligence in providing security to the Christians when it was very obvious that the extremists would attack them.
The government should immediately abolish the Blasphemy law which was introduced by a fundamentalist military dictator in the 1980s for the purpose of prosecuting religious minorities. The government should also follow the amendment made in the Blasphemy law that no FIR for Blasphemy can be filed without an officer of the rank of Superintendent of Police. Therefore the government should take action against the responsible police officers who, without proper investigations, filed the FIR for Blasphemy at the pressure from some Muslim extremist groups.
The government should also provide compensation to the family of the assassinated brothers.