Police registered a case against 67 nominated and 400 unnamed suspects on Wednesday for lynching and burning a man and his pregnant wife in Kot Radha Kishan, Kasur, on Tuesday for alleged blasphemy.
The FIR includes Sections 302, 201, 149, 353, 148, and 436 of the PPC and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act. DPO Qasoor Jawad Qamar said 42 people had been arrested and were being interrogated.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to “show no mercy” to those responsible for the act. A responsible state cannot allow mob rule to supersede its own laws, the prime minister said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
According to initial police investigations shared by a police official, Ramazan, the driver of the brick kiln owner, told residents of Chak 59, near Kot Radha Kishan that he was visiting the makeshift hut where the couple lived and saw Saima sweeping garbage. In the garbage was a paper with verses of the Holy Quran on it, he said.
The official said that the rumour spread like wildfire. The imams of mosques in Chak 59 and neighbouring villages egged on the residents to take action after which hundreds of villagers marched on to the brick kiln where Saima and Sajjad were being kept in confinement by the brick kiln owner. They clubbed the couple to death and threw their bodies in the kiln’s furnace.
Human Liberation Commission chairman Aslam Sahotra, who was present when their bones were recovered from the kiln, said the girl’s father Nazir Masih, a resident of Klarkabad village, told him that Saima was four months pregnant at the time of the incident. “Three people were murdered,” he said.
Following the incident, heavy police contingents cordoned off Klarkabad, a Christian-majority village.
Saima’s father told Sahotra that his daughter and son-in-law had been held captive three days prior to the incident because they wanted to leave the kiln. “The owner spread the rumour because he wanted to punish them.”
The FIR of the incident, registered on the complaint of the Factory Area police post in-charge, says that the mob reached the brick kiln and told the owner to hand over the couple to them. They broke the roof of the room where the couple was being held and beat them to death.
The FIR says that the five policemen at the scene tried to stop the villagers but were attacked.
Sahotra said the police took the charred bones of the couple and buried them without waiting for their families to arrive.
Sajjad’s brother Javed Masih said, “My brother and bhabi were illiterate and could not read at all… the allegation is false.”
Activists, minorities protest
Hundreds of Christian community members and political parties staged a demonstration on Wednesday condemning the attack. They put the couple’s mortal remains in a coffin and placed it on a road near the Lahore Press Club. The protesters shouted slogans against the police for failing to save the couple from being clubbed and burnt to death.
Raul Desouza, one of the protesters, said members of minority communities were picked off by fundamentalists with impunity. “We will not accept a verbal apology we want the culprits punished.”
Yasser Hashmi, another protester, said the brutal act took place in the presence of five policemen. They are as responsible for the offence as those in the mob, he said.
Christian rights activist Napoleon Qayyum, who is also providing legal aid to the couple’s family, said, “We will make sure that justice is served.”
Dr Mehdi Hassan, a human rights activist, said the incident was a result of increasing religiosity in Pakistan. This was one of several incidents that take place in the country – Christian villages razed to the ground, Hindus persecuted shamelessly in Sindh and Balochistan – but justice is never served, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 6th, 2014.