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Today (4th November) at 7:00am, a Christian couple Shahzad Masih and Shama Bibi who was 4 months pregnant, were burned alive in an extra-judicial killing for an blasphemy. The incident occurred at the brick Kiln of Yousaf Gujjar a Muslim landowner in Kasur (near Lahore). 44 culprits including Mr Gujjar have been arrested on charges of murder.
We set the facts out for you below as reported by Muhammad Rafique.
The couple worked at the brick kiln of Mr Gujjar along with four brothers of Shahzad Masih
Shahzad Masih’s father died 7 days earlier and on Sunday evening, Shama Bibi, collected some belongings of the deceased including unwanted papers, which she burnt as part of a ritual cleansing process. Shama disposed the residue from the fire onto a local garbage heap.
The head manager of the kiln factory Muhammad Afzal saw the remains of the burnt papers, and he and one other Muslim hawker, who resides in a nearby village, accused the couple of having burnt Quranic texts.
The manager of the kiln with some colleagues, kidnapped the couple and kept them hostage within a room of a building near the kiln. He then sent men throughout the nearby villages, to disseminate news that the couple had committed a blasphemy. The couple wanted to flee from the area so the owner of the kiln struck a deal with the victims . He demanded full payment of the loan he had advanced the couple, plus interest, assuring them of escape on receipt.
One of the brothers of Shahzad has informed us that the reason they could not keep up payments on the loan, was because the same kiln owner was holding back their wage payments. This is a common ploy used to increase the debts of modern day slaves under bonded labour, It enables unruly landlords to exert pressure and extort even more money out of victims.
This bargain was struck too late however for the couple to escape, as a crowd of Muslims had already gathered outside the building within which the couple were detained, earlier this morning. An announcement had been made from the loudspeakers of several local Mosques, from all the nearby villages, calling for the death of the blasphemers. The hate messages created such a frenzy that hundreds of local Muslim’s screamed and shouted for the couple to be given to them.
Some men entered the property via the roof and dragged the terrified and pleading couple out of the house. The crowd started beating the couple with clubs, stripped them naked then paraded them, all the time goading and insulting them. Eventually the perpetual beatings fractured the legs and arms of the victims, giving an indication of the severe and sheer brutality of the attack. The mob then dragged the distressed and aching couple towards the kiln’s furnace and shouted praises to Allah as they burnt them alive.
Shahzad and Shama were parents to three children who were taken away from the scene of violence in tears, by the brothers of Shahzad. They all had to flee for their own safety. One brother remained and had to watch as the perpetrators of violence killed his brother and sister in-law before him. He was unable to offer any help and the torturous incident has left him in a frenzied state of mind. He is now receiving counselling.
Local Police have since the incident arrested 44 individuals who were involved in the violent attack. However, the likelihood of convictions is extremely low and it is expected that most, if not all of the perpetrators of this crime will be released after a short period in remand. This would be in keeping with arrests and detainment during other similar attacks. The levels of impunity for crimes against Christians and other minorities are being blamed for the increase in crimes of this nature.
Mushtaq Gill, said;
“In Pakistan, the use of the blasphemy law is often used as a tool to persecute Christians and others who adhere to faiths other then Islam. Please raise your voice for the survival and safety of Christians and their faith in Pakistan – which is not possible without the repeal of the blasphemy law.”
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said;
“This barbaric act of cruelty reinforces the position held by the British Pakistani Christian Association. For many years we have stated that their is no safe place for minorities in Pakistan. It has been argued that until a trigger incident, such as this blasphemy allegation occurs, Minority people live in relative peace. Yet the slightest unsubstantiated smear results in extra-judicial killings. The constant fear and intimidation that Christians and other minorities are subjected to, should in itself be enough reason for western powers and aid providers to take a closer inspection on existing relations with Pakistan.”
“There are other disenfranchised and now frightened Christians living in the same village as this couple. If they are not protected, we are going to see the same wave of hatred that led to the couple’s death, meted out against these innocents too. We call on the authorities of Pakistan to ensure that their duty to protect is upheld, so that this incident does not result in a Gojra-sized tragedy. I will be praying for peace in the area and for succour for the family and friends of Shazad and Shama, with whom my thoughts lie. Please join me in praying for them.”
One of the brothers of Shahzad has informed us that the couple were married 8 years ago. During their committed relationship they had three children a son named Sulman (6 yrs) and two daughters Sonia (4 yrs) Poonam (18 months).
The brothers of Shahzad have taken the children into safety, however it is essential that this family is supported financially as the children will become a burden on already stretched resources. Moreover the family are all in debt and are currently serving their masters as bonded labour. They will need to escape that situation as their master (although not arrested as he was not involved in the killing) was the instigator of the attack.
The BPCA has initiated a permanent benevolent fund for the family of Shahzad and Shama. The BPCA desires to free them from their bonded labour status and will work towards providing a new safer environment for this family, who have suffered the loss of loved ones in a very brutal and savage manner. This family have been left with serious emotional and psychological scarring and are receiving counselling. The orphaned children are being cared for by the family of Shahzad and your donations will provide ongoing support. If you would like to contribute to our appeal our bank details are as follows:
Sort Code: 20-67-90 Account number: 63468976 Bank: Barclays
Ref: Love for Shahzad and Shama (regular standing orders will need this reference)
Alternatively if you would like to send an immediate donation please use the pay-pal facility on the top right hand corner of our blog, or simply send a cheque made payable to the BPCA to our address; 57 Green Lane, Ilford, Essex, IG1 1XG.
With your support we hope to change the lives of millions of Christians in Pakistan.
Simon Yousaf from WWEB TV has interviewed Mushtaq Ahmed about the attack (Click Here)