Neighbour vouches for family’s innocence

Police say protesters have agreed to take back allegation against Christian family


Rana Tanveer May 22, 2016
Police say protesters have agreed to take back allegation against Christian family. PHOTO: REUTERS

LAHORE: A Muslim neighbour has vouched for the innocence of a Christian family in Gujrat on the verge of being charged with blasphemy.

A local prayer leader and his followers had been pressing police to register an FIR against the family, claiming they had dined on a panaflex banner inscribed with a religious name. Disputing the claim, police had said the banner—which was recovered from the family—only featured pictures of local politicians.

Police had been trying to resolve the matter by having the family assure the prayer leader and his followers that they had not committed any blasphemy. The prayer leader had asked some Muslim residents to testify on behalf of the family.

Rights activist Khalid Shahzad had told The Express Tribune that Christian Colony resident Shaukat Masih was eating with his family when a Muslim neighbour had come to visit them. He said she had later returned and asked for the banner to be handed over to her. Shahzad said Masih’s wife had refused to handover the banner.

He said the woman had then approached her husband who had in turn informed the prayer leader. “The prayer leader had managed to organise a protest demonstration. Timely intervention of some other Christians—who alerted police—prevented any untoward incident from taking place,” he had said.

Police had said that the family had handed over the banner to them when they inquired about it. “We had taken the family and the prayer leader to the police station where they produced the banner. On inspecting the banner, the prayer leader asserted that the family must have replaced the original panaflex with another one. The banner in question only had the names of Haji Imran Zafar and Haji Nasir inscribed on it,” police had said.

On Sunday, Sub-inspector Muhammad Arif, incharge of Garhi Ahmedabad Police Post, told The Express Tribune that the protesters had demanded the Christian family prove their innocence by getting some Muslim to swear that they had not committed blasphemy.

“Both sides had agreed on the name of Mushtaq Butt, a Muslim resident of the same locality. Two days ago, Butt swore that the flax in police custody was the same on which the Christian family had dined,” he said. He said the protesters had accepted the testimony and agreed not to raise the issue again. “They have also withdrawn their application for the registration of an FIR against the family,” he said.

Ahsan Masih Sindhu, a Christian of the locality, said the family was thankful to Butt for saving them. “Even on the day the protest was held, Butt had convinced the protesters not to go to the houses of Christians. Butt investigated the issue for two days and then testified that the family was innocent,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2016.

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