LAHORE: Social activists protested against the alleged brutality of the FIA against blasphemy accused Patras and Sajid Masih. Holding placards and banners on Monday, they chanted slogans against the brutal act and demanded vacancies for an officer from minorities in the FIA Cybercrime wing so that people accused of blasphemy could be given an effective and impartial inquiry.
Man sentenced to life for blasphemy
The demands were put forward at the Lahore Press Club where large number of activists staged protest against the FIA Cybercrime Wing. They believed that the acts against Sajid Masih and Patras Masih, while in custody at FIA’s Lahore headquarters, indicated it was the right time to establish a steering committee to oversee the authority’s investigation into blasphemy cases.
Digital Rights Foundation Executive Director Nighat Dad told The Express Tribune said that as a law enforcement body, it was the duty of the FIA to ensure there are safeguards to ensure that the suspects are accorded their rights. “It is the bedrock of the criminal justice system and the FIA has failed in this case. The budget of FIA is being announced soon and it is high time that they create a seat for an officer from the minorities and establish a steering committee to oversee the investigation process,” she added. The committee must include a technical supervisor or IT expert, as most cases come under the cybercrime act,” Dad continued.
She also called for the effective oversight of law enforcement agencies to hold them accountable and prevent the abuse of power. “Special protocols and procedures should be in place to deal with cases, such as blasphemy, where the lives of the accused are at stake.”
She continued that these demands were also endorsed by organisations such as the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), Bolo Bhi, National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), South Asian Partnership Pakistan (SAP-PK), Shirkatgah, Minorities Rights Watch as well as collectives including Girls at Dhabas, Women’s Action Forum Chapters of Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Hyderabad and Peshawar, the Feminist Collective, Network of Journalists for Digital Rights and Women United for Digital Rights.
She added that these demands further were signed by more than 150 collectives, civil society organisations and concerned citizens. The activist stated that serious concerns were raised over the treatment of marginalised groups by law enforcement agencies, specifically religious minorities. “The state has a heightened duty to protect persecuted groups”. She said the FIA completely failed to provide any security to the accused and the family. The law enforcement authorities have not only failed in their duty to protect minorities, but have actively participated in violence against them.”
She further demanded that the government has been called upon to immediately withdraw the FIR for attempted suicide against Sajid and ensure that the accused and their family are provided with effective security.
The 17 year-old suspect, Patras Masih, was accused of allegedly posting blasphemous material on social media. Masih belongs to Shahdara’s Christian community which has been under siege for the last week by religious parties who demanded he punished. These threats have endangered the entire Christian community living in Dhir village in Shahdara Town, resulting in some fleeing their homes. An FIR was registered against Patras (FIR No. 174/18) on February 19 at the Shahdara Town Police Station under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code.
FIR for blasphemy registered against Christian teenager in Shahdara
On February 23, 2018, Patras Masih and his cousin, Sajid Masih, were in the custody of the FIA at the Lahore headquarters when the abuse by law enforcement officials took place. Around 6:00 PM, Sajid fell off the fourth floor of the FIA building, resulting in serious injuries to his head and body.
It has come to light that Sajid and Patras were tortured by officers of the cybercrime wing and were coerced into performing sexual acts on one another. Sajid, pleaded with them to stop. As a last resort, in order to escape the torture and sexual abuse, he jumped off the fourth floor of the FIA building, where the cybercrime wing is located. Sajid is currently in the hospital recovering from his injuries.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2018.