On 9 May 2003, some Muslims who lived in the village, Datezarke, adjacent to Zaid Wali village attacked the church injuring several Christian worshippers and breaking the furniture and the holy utensils. Background:
Christians and Muslims have been living together in the village of Zaid Wali for the past many years. They have been living in peace until for the last few months when there had been some kind of tension going on between the Christians of Zaid Wali and some Muslim boys of the adjacent village, Datezarke, who use to stand, near the church whenever the Christians use to pray. The Christian community of the village didn't like those boys to stand near the church as they use to block the way for the congregation to enter into the church, especially for women. On the day of the incident 9 May 2003, some Muslim boys were also standing in the way while the congregation including women and young girls of the village were coming to attend the mass.
Pastor Anwar Javed from Kot Lakhpat, Lahore, approached CLAAS on 6 June 2003 and told the office about the incident. The team at CLAAS immediately left for the scene. The team found the church sealed by the pastor of the church, namely Pastor Ashraf Sahotra. They found the church in ghastly position, the Boundary wall was broken and the bricks were lying everywhere on the ground. While inside the church the furniture was broken and the utensils used for communion were also broken and lying on the floor. The team met the following people who were involved in the incident:
Pastor Ashraf Sahotra:
Pastor Ashraf Sahotra, 30, had been preaching the Good News among the Christian community for the last 8 years, who have been living there before the partition of the subcontinent. According to him he visits the village every Friday to take the mass at 7 in the evening. It was Friday on 9 May 2003, the day the incident took place. Every one was coming to attend the 7 p.m. service as usual. They started their service at 7 p.m. and were singing Psalm 51 when suddenly he heard a loud noise outside. He came outside and saw some Christian men quarrelling with some Muslim boys from the adjacent village Datezarke, namely, Tanvir Ahmed, Munawar Ahmed, Shabir Ahmed, Warris
Allah Ullah, Muhammad Qamar, Muhammad Nawaz and Shaqu who were standing inside the church compound. These Muslim boys were mocking at the Christians and making jokes the women that provoked Amjad, Abbas and Shahbaz to take notice, who were busy praying inside the church (This was not the first time these boys have stood near the church but for the past few months have been making trouble for them). They forbade the Muslim boys and told them to leave as it was their prayer time and also women from the village were also coming to the service and that was intolerable for the Christian men to let any one make jokes with their women. After the intervention of the elders of the community the Muslim men went back towards their village.
After about 10 to 15 minutes about 15-17 Muslim men armed with weapons came back while the church was filled with worshippers. They came inside the church and started torturing him and beating the congregation with their weapons severely injuring 5 of them. They broke all the furniture inside the church and threw all the utensils used for communion on the ground. They also shot fires in the air harassing everyone inside and outside the church and threatening the Christians to leave the place. One Mughal Masih, a Christian from the village of Datezake when heard the gun shots ran towards the scene and found the attackers beating the innocent Christians. He tried to catch one of them but unfortunately was pushed down and was severely beaten by 4-5 of them. During this scuffle one of the attackers stabbed him making a deep wound under his left ribs.
After the attackers left the place Pastor Ashraf along with other men took the injured Mughal Masih to Qila Kalerwala Police Station to register a case of attack on the church and injuring the congregation, against the Muslim attackers. The police refused to register any case of attack on the church rather than registered a case of attack on the congregation and injuring Mughal Masih and others. They provided the police with the empty shells of the bullets as a proof but their plea was ignored. This was done because of the pressure from the Chaudhry of the area, Chaudhry Zaid Mukhtar. After sometime they were accompanied by a police man to take the wounded to the District Hospital Sialkot.
He further told the team that they left Mughal Masih in the hospital with his brother Binyamin. While he (Binyamin) was sleeping, in the early hours of 10 May 2003 at about 2:00 a.m. Chaudhry Zaid along with a policeman came to the hospital and woke him up and forced him to put his thumb impression on a blank paper. A case was registered against the culprits for fighting and injuring Mughal Masih on the complaint of Binyamin FIR (First Information Report) No: 66/2003 Under Section 337-A1 / 337 H2, 148/149 PPC (Pakistan Penal Code), as his thumb impressions were taken forcibly by the Chaudhry Zaid and the police. No case was registered against the culprits for desecrating the church and making life threats to the Christians while a complaint was given in the concerned police station by Pastor Ashraf Sahotra.
Later on they approached Aslam Sahotra who helped them to file a writ petition in the High Court for registration of the case, which was disposed off and the court ordered the SSP (Senior Superintendent of Police) to visit the crime scene to investigate the matter and report it to the court, while the culprits were granted bail. He also told the team that the SSP was suppose to visit the place of occurrence the day team visited them i.e. on 6 June 2003 but had has not come yet.
Abbas s/o Rehmat Masih
Age: 25 years
According to him he along with rest of the congregation was busy in worshipping when he saw some men standing inside the church compound blocking the way for the people to enter the church and were making trouble for women as well. He along with few other men came outside and told them to leave but that offended them and they started swearing and quarreling with them. Due to the interference of the elders those Muslim men left the place and the congregation started worshipping. After about 15 minutes those boys came back with weapons and while they were busy in praying, attacked the pastor and the people sitting inside the church. They broke the furniture and utensils used for Holy Communion and opened fire outside the church, harassing everyone and threatening them to leave the place.
According to him one Mughal Masih of the adjacent village ran towards the scene after hearing the gun shots. On trying to stop the attackers was severely beaten and stabbed with a dagger. After the Muslim party left the place they took Mughal to the police station and told them every thing that had happened but were refused to be listened. Later on they took the injured to the District Hospital Sialkot, who was referred to Mayo Hospital, Lahore after being treated two days in Sialkot Hospital.
He further told that the police came at the place of occurrence after two days and pressurized them to leave the matter regarding the despoilment of the church relieving the police from registering the case against the attackers under Blasphemy law.
Pastor Sadiq Masih:
Pastor Sadiq Masih, 50, had has been working as a local priest in the area of Zaid Wali for the last 10 years. He told the team that on 9 May 2003 they were in the church worshipping when he heard a loud noise outside. He saw that some Christian men were quarreling with some Muslim men who lived in the neighboring village of Datezarke, for standing inside the compound and mocking at the women who were coming to the church for the mass. They left after the things were settled between them but after few minutes they came back with weapons and started beating every one while they were busy in worshipping. They tortured Pastor Ashraf and others and stabbed one man namely Mughal Masih who was trying to stop them from beating the innocent. They also broke down the furniture of the church and the Holy Utensils. He said that the police did not helped them instead made an ordinary case of fight against the culprits and has been pressuring them not to mention about the attack on the church as this is a serious matter.
Sharifan Bibi widow of Rehmat Masih:
She had been living in the village for 38 years with her family and has had no problem with any one until the attack on the church on 9 May 2003. She told one of the team members that on the day of the occurrence she was in the church with her daughter-in-law when she heard a loud noise of fighting outside. On inquiring she came to know that some Muslim men were forbidden by Christian men from standing inside the church compound and making jokes with young Christian girls and women. Later on when the church was full with people suddenly 15 to 17 Muslim men entered inside the church and started beating every one including the Pastor and broke every thing that was in the church i.e. furniture and the utensils used for the Holy Communion. They also injured one Christian man Mughal Masih whose condition is not Satisfied.
Susan Bibi wife of Rasheed Masih:
She is 50 years of age and is residing in the village since her marriage. Her house is opposite to the church where she was present at the time of the incident. She told the team that she did not go to the church as her Daughter was ill. On 9 May 2003 at about 7:20 p.m. she heard some voices outside and came out to see what was happening? She saw some Muslim men fighting with some Christian men. Later on she came to know that the Christian men told the Muslim men to leave the place who were standing inside the church compound and blocking the way for the women and young girls from entering inside the church. Later on more than 12 Muslims came back and started beating the Christian worshippers busy inside the church, breaking furniture and utensils and severely injuring Mughal Masih whose condition was not good.
Every one present there told the team that they were informed by the local police station that the SSP was suppose to visit them on 6 June 2003 in order to investigate and take witnesses but failed to take action according to the orders given by the High Court.
After waiting for the SSP until 5:30 p.m. the team went to the concerned police station Kila Kalerwala Police Station. The SHO (Station House Officer) was not present in his office instead the team met the Investigation Officer Muhammad Hussain who told the team that he went to the place of occurrence the next day 10 May 2003 and registered the FIR No: 66/2003 on the complaint of Binyamin against the Muslim party for injuring his brother and have no idea about the attack on church and have no idea if the attack on the church is part of Mughal Masih' incident or being concocted by the Christians to make their case stronger. He also told the team that they have the possession of the dagger with which Mughal Masih was stabbed.
After some time the S.H.O came to the office and told the team that none of the people who came with Mughal Masih told the police about the attack on the church on the day of occurrence instead just told about the fighting with the Muslims and the injuries came to Mughal Masih.
At listening to the police's view Abbas Masih, Pastor Ashraf and others strongly refuted false stance S.H.O standing in front of him and told him that his deceitful, as they informed the police about the attack on the Church immediately.