Christian-Muslim unrest in Nazareth Colony, Bheel Nagar, Rahim Yar Khan, Pakistan, June 22, 2013
(Reported by Fr. Gulshan Barkat OMI)
On June 21st 2013 an atmosphere of uncertainty prevailed in Bheel Nagar, named by Christians as Nazareth Colony, Rahim Yar Khan, Pakistan when tension between Christians and Muslims over a social issue occurred. Nazareth colony has around 250 Christian families. There are around 70 Hindu families while about 200 Muslim families.
On June 21st at 5 p.m. a Catholic boy by the name of Sam aged 8 was accused by a Muslim man of teasing his daughter of 8 years old. Sam is studying in a government school in Bheel Nagar in class 4. Sam has another brother namely Ashley of 12 years old. Their father’s name is Patras Sadeeq who is a fodder-seller. The father of the girl by the name of Muhammad Hameed (related to Sipah-e-Sahaba) accusing Sam of teasing her, came to Patras’ house with 7 armed molvis (Muslim religious leaders) who first exchanged hot words with Patras’ family and then started a physical fight. Earlier Muhammad Hameed had accused an Ice-seller for teasing his daughter. Later he accused Sam and called the police. When the Police came, they took Sam’s elder brother Ashley instead of Sam. No FIR (First Information Report) had been registered against Sam or Ashley. The police took the child, put him in a police mobile vehicle and led him to the police station. At this police action, the Christian community of the area blocked the major bypass road in protest of this arrest of a minor. After driving about 2 km, the SHO of C-Division Police Station, Rahim Yar Khan, Muhammad Ashraf phoned the Christian community representative Qamar Iqbal, a Catholic lawyer to take the boy. This way Ashley was released before he reached the police station due to pressure from the Christian community.
Later 8 representatives of the Christian community went to the police station C-Division, Rahim Yar Khan to lodge an FIR against the Muslims for creating trouble for Christians based on false allegations. The Christian community was also of the view that they should lodge a complaint with the police before the Muslims twist the incident and make it a blasphemy case. When the Christian representatives reached the C-Division police station, they found over 100 men already present there of Sipa-e-Sahaba (a Muslim terrorist organization) who had come to lodge an FIR against Christians. Then Christian representatives phoned back home to get more men at the police station. The number of Christians totaled around 60 while there were over 100 Muslims. After lodging the complaint, Christians returned home while two Christians by the names of Maqsood Barkat and Illyas Masih remained behind. They were given a lift by a Muslim by the name of Muhammad Javed living in Bheel Nagar.
They had come about 1 km from the police station around 10 p.m. on a motorbike when they were surrounded by 35 to 40 armed men on motorbikes. These men introduced themselves as men of Sipah-e-Sahaba and started beating them severely. Three of those that were beaten sustained severe hidden injuries. These men accused Muhammad Javed of siding with Christians.
When the Christian community of Bheel Nagar heard the ordeal of this beating, they again staged a protest and blocked the bypass road. DPO, Habib Sohail of Rahim Yar Khan and SHO Muhammad Ashraf of C-Division Police Station, Rahim Yar Khan came to persuade the Christian community to call off the protest and clear the bypass road. The DPO threatened the Christian community of dire consequences if they did not clear the road. Later the Christian community called off the protest after promises of justice from DSP (Deputy Superintend of police) and DPO (District Police Officer). Ishaq Dhilu, DSP of City Circle has given promises of protection and security to Christians of Bheel Nagar but that remains little as he has done nothing in calming down the situation.
On the whole there has not been sufficient cooperation and collaboration with the Christian community on the part of the civil authority of Rahim Yar Khan Fr. Francis Akuve Cssp, the parish priest of Holy Cross Parish, Rahim Yar Khan had a meeting with DPO and submitted his letter requesting the police to provide security to Christians of Bheel Nagar.
On 22nd at 5:30 p.m. there was a peace talk at the house of Mazhar Nisar, the leader of Jamiat-e-Ulma Islami, Rahim Yar Khan. There were five Christian representatives sent namely Qamar Iqbal, Pervez Sardar, Shahid Saleem, Sadeeq Jalal and Illyas Noor. Christian representatives arrived on time there while the Muslim party did not appear.
It was known that the men of Sipah-e-Sahaba were gathering at the house of Malik Ishaq, the Vice president of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan. The situation is very tense at Bheel Nagar since there has no agreement reached between Christians and Muslims.