Friday, 26 December 2014

Santa Claus doesn’t visit Pakistan?

Santa Claus doesn’t visit Pakistan?
By – Shamim Masih
ISLAMABAD: December 25th is a public holiday, but it is in the memory of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of the country, not for the celebrations of Christmas. Pakistan has a population over 180 million people and there are around 20 millions Christians. Although there is no census in the country for many years but this is estimated figure given by different Christian organization and churches around. Most of Christians live in are quite poor. At Christian festivals, like Christmas and Easter, a big procession takes place like in Lahore, Karachi and Rawalpindi. Before and during Advent, spiritual seminars take place to help people to prepare for Christmas. In many Christian areas, carol singing is performed by various groups. They go from house to house singing carols and in return the family offers something to the choir. Mostly the money collected from such carols is used for charity works or is given to the church. But this trend is gradually fading now due to the wave of terrorism in the country for the last decade.  
Christmas is not being celebrated in Pakistan like, in EU or other Christian countries. Especially, when there is Pakistan Muslim League PML-N (a political party) come in power. Most of the Pakistani Christians believe that PML-N mind set is pro-Taliban and they hardly bear Pakistani Christians. And this year they proved it, government didn’t announced any public holiday for Christians. There remained gas and electricity load shedding schedule in its routine. It means Christian of the country enjoyed Christmas with gas and electricity. On the other hand, special announcement is being made by the government and special packages on Eid ul Fiter and Eid ul Uzha (Muslim’s festivals) announced usually. The authorities gave another indication of being second class citizen and showed their discriminatory attitude towards Christians of the country.
Anyway, in the big Christians areas, each house is decorated and has a star on the roof. Christians also sometimes exchange Christmas cakes. Churches are packed for midnight or vigil mass services. After the vigil-mass, in some places there are fireworks which start Christmas celebrations. People wear their best and colorful clothes. Some people dance, exchange gifts and enjoy the special night. But this Christmas is embraced in certain parts of Pakistani society, especially among the wealthy and educated. Paradoxically, the country is also seeing an uptick in violence against Christians as some use the country’s controversial “Blasphemy law” to marginalize and oppress their non-Muslim countrymen.
Not everyone is deprived of an opulent holiday feast when it comes to Christmas dinner in Pakistan. The menu reads as if an especially corpulent Santa had providing dinner. Brie and cranberry parcels, roast turkey, gravy, beef, stuffing and mushroom roulade. Spiced pumpkin cheesecake and “Christmas Pie Sundae” complete with orange, almond and whisky sauce cap off dinner for well connected diplomats and privileged society.
This privileged society simply forget their Christian brothers, where is no decorations, no best and colorful clothes. The stench from overflowing half-frozen sewers permeates the small neighborhood. As a nation, we wear our emotions on our sleeve, given to sudden declarations that fizzle out like the ocean surf. Our tragedies forgotten before the wounds have sealed, we continue desensitized.  

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Stop raising voice for Justice, peace and respect

Stop raising voice for Justice, peace and respect
By – Shamim Masih
ISLAMABAD: Let the voices of justice, peace, and respect for law enforcement be heard. People around the world have seen the iron man protecting a Christian minor girl Rimsha (accused of burning holy papers of Islamic verses that focused international attention on Pakistan’s unsympathetic blasphemy laws) up to helicopter outside the prison, when she was released on bail. I have also seen him during the said case protecting her attorney Tahir Naveed Chaudhry during the case trial. Although Chaudhry’s role as a lawyer was not prominent but his presence was there which won her release on bail. Later Rana Abdul Hameed, Rimsha’s attorney came in and saved her skin up to the apex court. I am eye witness and have seen him in or outside the Islamabad courts running in rain or sun. Although I knew him before but since then we came close to each other and working together for Christian’s rights. Rimsha was held in jail before getting bail, but the cleric was later accused of fabricating evidence and the case against the girl was dropped. Later Rimsha and her family find refuge in Canada. But this man is still under threat and facing threat call on routine basis. Yes, he is Basharat Masih Khokhar, a police official, had been serving as a security guard with Shahbaz Bhatti, a slain Federal Minister for minorities in Islamabad.
Basharat Khokher (in white shirt) keeping eye in surroundings
Basharat Khokher has been struggling for Christian rights for many years. In November, 2008, he was accused of harsh blasphemy law and First Investigation Report – FIR 267/08 was registered against him under 295-C and 109 Pakistan Penal Code, when he was saving Christian colony in Rawal Dam Islamabad. He was arrested in the same case in January, 2009 and was put in the prison. He remained in the jail for five months and was released on bail from Islamabad High Court on June, 2009. After he released on the bail, he was appointed as security guard with Shahbaz Bhatti, a Federal Minister for minorities. After the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti on March 2011, he worked with Dr. Paul Bhatti, his brother, during this time he left no stone unturned to save minor Christian girl Rimsha’s life. Finally his case was discharged on baseless allegation on June, 2011. Since then, he is under constant threats. According to him, he received many threats calls and was attacked on September 9, 2012 at Zero point Islamabad. When his car was damaged and received injuries. Later he filed complain in Abbpara police station, Islamabad. On December 15, 2012, the same group followed him to his house and attacked his house. He sent his family in a hiding place for the fear of being attacked again on family members.
Most recently, he complained in the police station and said that on December 19, 2014 at 10:37 pm, he received a phone call from the landline number, who threatened him and asked to stop raising voice against terrorism. He said that he held candle vigil against the terrorist attack in Peshawar Army run school, which left killing of 147 people including 132 school children. The voice said him to keep in mind the scene of carnage of Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer, governor Punjab.
This is really pathetic that we cry over spilled milk but do not take protective measures when the situation can be controlled and life of man can be saved. I have seen many Christian rights defenders, much active on social media but there are few who really work hard to safe guard other’s right, Basharat Khokhar is one of them, who play on front foot. I think, he is asset and human right organizations should come in to raise voice against the extremists who work behind the radicalism.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Racism and injustice must end

By – Shamim Masih
ISLAMABAD: We had just finished our routine meeting in our office and were sitting in reporting room. My colleague Nasir Kazmi told me that Chief Justice Supreme Court Justice Nasirul Mulk will be hearing the Kot Radha Kishan case today. During our discussion I received a text message from BBC producer Wietske, she said that our planned visit is postponed due to the incident in Peshawar therefore we cannot move to Lahore. The assault, which was still in progress at mid-day….. Was it a reaction of Operation Zarb-e-Azb or what else?
According to the reports, Taliban commandos stormed Army Public school in Peshawar. The fatal attack has resulted in at least137 deaths, and many were injured. The attackers were said to have been dressed like military soldiers in an attempt to subvert security protocols. They went after the unarmed and helpless. Every bully is a coward underneath it all. Victims were killed either in class rooms or corridors. Some survivors’ spoke of how they played dead to avoid being shot, terrified that they would never see the light of the day again. Education isn’t just the best antidote to poverty; it is one of the best anti-terrorism tactics – helps kids get out of hopelessness and into opportunity. But a band of men walked into a school in Peshawar and massacred over 130 children. What kind of person does something like this?
Although we do not expect many Christians to have been affected by this attack, but we show our solidarity with our Muslim brothers, we remember the impact of the twin bomb attack on a church in Peshawar last year, which killed a similar number of victims. The pain families went through required counseling and moral support and we stand with these latest victims. We need to stand united against this wave of terrorism. If we have taken stand against the brutality in All Saints Church, Peshawar, and had taken stringent measures to kill this mind set. It sounds good, when apex court has ordered to arrest the police officers, who were present while extremist mob burnt the Christian couple alive on November 4. CJ also ordered to take action against Molvi Noor Hassan and Arshad Baloch for provoking the crowd on the day.   
These Taliban are killing children and fighting for their superior belief system which they want to spread around the globe and recreate the grand days of the Caliphate. As most of them can’t read or write how could they do that. This Fazlullah character is nothing but another Stalin or Hitler in making, corrupting all before him. The educated Muslim community needs to very publicly disavow these preverters of their faith. Call them what they are, misogynistic, megalomaniacs with serious psychological problems.
It’s time that PM Nawaz Sharif learns that you can’t make a deal with the devil. Find out where the villages that shelter these animals are and carpet bombs them. Those “civilians” that provide refuge are supporters. Pakistani law enforcement agencies should be aware of them where these mutts are.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

18 Christians booked in blasphemy case before Christmas

18 Christians booked in blasphemy case before Christmas
By – Shamim Masih
ISLAMABAD: Christmas is unique festival for all the Christians around the world. People started its celebration with the start of the month of December. This year in the capital city of Pakistan, 18 Christians including two pastors and three women booked in blasphemy case.
According to the details, before Christmas 2014 celebration, Christians of the capital city are under persecution. On December 07, FIR was registered accusing 11 people committing blasphemy including three females of the same area. Naseem Bibi, who was Christian and converted to Islam in 1995, she married a Muslim man and had three children. She complained that Pastor Karamat Masih 45, Shafique Masih nick name Noora 32, Yousaf Masih 60, Parveen Bibi (widow), Bavi Bibi, Nasreen Bibi wife of Yousaf Masih, Shahid Masih 35, Parveez Masih, Tariq Matto, Nabeela Bibi, and Judge Masih reportedly went to her home and attacked her. She said in her application that there were 50 more people, they all came to her house and gave insulted remarks about Islam. She said that they also insulted Quran. Thus a First Investigation Report – FIR 888/14 was registered against these people under PP 295-B, 354, 452, 148, 149 in PS Margalla, Islamabad. Four of them, Yousaf, Shafique, Shahid and Tariq were sent to prison.
This is also to mention that Yousaf and Nasreen Bibi planned their daughter’s wedding before Christmas. The nominated Nasreen Bibi is reportedly suffering with severe disease and was admitted in the hospital. The said FIR was registered in response of the FIR No. 887/14 under PP 506, 341, 148 and 149 against the same lady, when she reportedly attacked on few of the these people. This is also to mention that the same lady had accused 7 Christians of the slums murdering her husband. Finally court discharged the case.
Earlier on November 20, a FIR was registered against few Christians of slum area including one Pastor. Another blasphemy case against 8 Christians of the capital was registered in the Capital on November 20. Christians of slum area are alleged to disgrace the holy verses of the Quran. The outskirt of the capital is under threat again.
According to the police, Naheed Ahamd complained in the Police Station that he found half burnt pages of the Quran near PTV-2 building in Sector H-9, Islamabad. He also mentioned that name of Ps. Arif, Peera, Ch. David, Victor, Shamshad etc were also found attached with these verses. Police registered First Investigation Report – FIR no. 596/14 under section 295-B, 6/7ATA against the offender and started investigations.
It is also to mention that residents of the said sector were displaced from Rawal Dam and sector G-12 Islamabad. Many displaced families of the famous Rimsha case (a minor Christian girl accused of burning the holy verses) were settled there since then. Federal Government and Capital Development Authority – CDA have promised to grant them a piece of land. But since then they are not been provided a place to live in. During the past months, Christian slum settlers are warned to clear the area under the umbrella of taking strict security measures.
Sharing Life Ministries Pakistan – SLMP team visited both victims of the blasphemy accused to provide them some counseling, advice and prayer.  Blasphemy law is frequently used for vested interest against Christians and other minorities in the country. There is strong vice around the world to bring reforms in this law to avoid the bloodletting of Christians and other people of the country. Earlier Christian couple was burnt in Kot Radh Kishan.  

Friday, 12 December 2014

Recent Christian victims

Recent Christian victims
By – Shamim Masih
LAHORE: After writing the story of the recent Christian victims; British Pakistani Christian Association –BPCA asked me to visit them to provide some counseling, advice and prayer. It was a courtesy call which brought following facts.    
Elishba Bibi discussing her incident.
Shamim  asking Farzana's father after awful ordeal
I started my journey on Thursday morning at 6:30 am from Islamabad towards Sheikhupura. I reached the location where the incident occurred Darghi, PS Rana Town, Ferozwala, Sheikhupura at around 1300 hours, but could not find the family there. Some neighbors informed me that Elishba and her family had been relocated to Lahore for their safety after a series of local threats and demands for them to drop the charges against the culprits of her attack.  Eventually I met with Elishba at around 1800 hours she was then living with relatives. Elishba was in tears, she has suffered a brutal beating and the loss of her child had obviously scarred her emotionally.  She described the vicious attack which involved being hit with metal poles while other men watched and jeered after an altercation with clients.  She spoke of the deep embarrassment she felt in being stripped naked so publicly. Elishba showed some of the scars on her legs from her brutal attack, these were not her worst injuries.  Sadly she also described how the Muslim men beat her stomach when she told that she was pregnant, the two assailants told her Christian children are no better then feces" as they murdered the embryo within her.
The argument began after Elihsba who provides private beautician services asked for the fees for her service from the woman called Rani and her daughter, who she had just completed work on.  They refused to pay and Rani called her sons to attack Elishba who she said had insulted her.  In addition to her child Elishba lost her phone, one week’s wages and gold jewelry which in total amounted to around Rs. 50,000 - these items were stolen by Rani's sons either. Other men threw stones at her and laughed as she ran naked from the area.  Another Christian woman from the local area took her into her home, and gave her some spare clothes. Elishba and I prayed for her lost child, the safety of her family and for justice to prevail.
Whilst I was there my Chairman Wilson Chowdhry called as BBC Asia Network asked if they could speak to Elishba Bibi for a radio feature.  She agreed to the interview, as she wanted British people to know that the life of Christians in Pakistan is one fraught with prejudice and violence. Elishba has three other children and has asked for people to pray for them, she fears for the safety of her family after this attack.
I left Elishba Bibi at 7pm and travelled towards the home of Sherisha and Farzana in Jaranwala with team members from Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan - SLMP. This address was around 100 kilometers from Lahore, but the road was very bad and it took us more than two hours to reach there. I kept contact with their father Ilyas Masih by mobile phone as despite their suffering; they were concerned about my well being. The route I took is not safe at any time and the road is subject to looting by highwayman, but I accepted the risk and trusted in God, simply wanting to pray with this family that has undergone such a debilitating attack. Their village Chack no. 651/2 is a few kilometers from the main road and is a very small village with around 200 families, of which around forty are Christian families. Most residents earn their livings as laborers.
The mud house of the victims without toilet facility.
The victim family which includes a father and five children has been making carpets in their home and survive on the sales of the carpets at a local market. Their house is made of mud with no safe boundary wall and has no wash room or toilet in the house. Sadly few household items were seen in their room - they live a very Spartan lifestyle. The mother of the children died few years ago. I discovered the two girls work as carpet-makers as they need the finance.  Regrettably none of the five children attend school.
The two girls, Sehrish (18yrs) and Farzana (14yrs) described the incident to me, Sehrish said;
"I went to a hidden place in the local fields with my sister, whom we use for toilets as we cannot afford one in our home. When we had finished three young men holding pistols demanded that we go to their home nearby, they threatened to shoot us if we did not comply and my sister and I were both very scared. We were both crying and I held my sisters hand to give her some support and because I needed it myself."
Both the girls cried as they remembered the attack.  Sehrish carried on;
"The young men kept touching us in private areas while we walked, they were laughing and jeering, my sister and I felt humiliated.  We knew what was going to happen to us and were terrified, but we had no choice.  We both prayed to God to free us from their clutches. We recognized the young men as they were from our local area and I pleaded with them not to do anything to us, for talking I was slapped in the face and punched hard in my stomach.  We both kept quite after this.  The young men Shahbaz, Asif and Azeem took us to their house
and ripped our clothes off. They kept us there for the whole night and gang raped us many times."
it was around midnight, when we reached at PS

The girls described how they were very frightened throughout the whole ordeal and kept quiet; they felt hurt and unclean and expressed a feeling of great shame, despite being innocent.  After the ordeal the rapists set the two girls free early in the morning at around 6am. They ran home weeping and told their father what happened, he had been extremely worried about them and had been hysterical on hearing about the torturous ordeal his girls had suffered. Mr Ilyas Masih (father) explained that he had waited for the girls and had reported them missing to the local police, he had been searching for them in nearby houses and tried his best to find them throughout the night.
The father returned to the police station the following day but police officials were unwilling to register a First Incident Report (FIR).  The father has received support towards legal costs and their lawyer convinced Civil Judge Kamran to order a  medical test on then girls which has been returned an proves forcible rape.  Judge Kamran instructed police to register an FIR. And two culprits Azeem and Shahbaz were arrested.   Police have informed me that the culprits have previously been accused of rape by another Christian family, who had to accept a compromise settlement as it was hard to prove guilt.   Despite evidence the Police and other people of the village are trying to force Ilyas to reach a similar compromise.  Ilyas Said; "My daughters are worth more than a few rupees, I want justice for them and do not want these evil boys to take the innocence of any other girls."  He broke down and cried.  "Their poor mother would be devastated with this news if she were alive; I feel as if I have failed them, I will not fail them again."
We reached at 2 am in Lahore and I started my journey back to Islamabad at 6 am.