By Jawad Mazhar Worthy News Special Correspondent reporting from Sargodha, Pakistan
SARGODHA, PAKISTAN (Worthy News) -- A tense calm returned Monday, February 2, to an impoverished area of the Pakistani city of Sargodha where police “tortured” Christian residents, which included beatings and sexually molesting girls and women, local Christians told Worthy News.
Last week, dozens of angry Christian men and women protested in front of nearby Factory Area Police Station to express their “pain and anger”over the January 20 incident at Sultan Colony town in Sargodha, the latest in a series of reported police attacks against minority Christians in this Islamic nation.
The violence allegedly happened when local police chief Afzal Lalli, backed by security forces, raided the home of a Christian man, identified as Naeem Gill. He said Lalli “dragged five Christian guests” identified as Nadeem Ashraf, Nadeem Naseer, Haroon Gill, Zaffar and Kamran Bhatti from a guest room in to the street and “thrashed” them with shoes, a sign of disrespect in Muslim culture.
"Making use of darkness due to the power outage Lalli and his fellow police men forced their way into the inner portion of the house and beat our girls and women present in the house" Gill told Worthy News. "Factory Area Police ruined the chastity of female members of my family by ripping apart their clothes and dragging them violently in the streets of Sultan Colony," he added.
Christians demonstrating against the alleged abuses said police claimed they were searching for a criminal identified as Shahid Ashraf. However, “They ransacked Naeem Gill's house for apparently without any reason,” Gill and other protesters said.
Afzal Lalli admitted that his forces "raided" the Christian home "on a tip-off to arrest offender Shahid Ashraf, who is required by the Factory Area Police in several cases of robbery." However he denied police was involved in misconduct. They did not “drag or beat any one there. [We] merely raided to confirm, if the fugitive was hiding there or not," he told Worthy News.
Yet, Christians maintained he was operating outside his jurisdiction as another police station is responsible for the district where the alleged violence occurred. He "had no right to raid and torture a Christian family," Gill and other protesters said.
A Pakistani human rights group, 'Rays of Development Organization' (ROD), said it was not the first time that police “tortured impoverished and innocent Christians”.
ROD Chief Ferhan Mazher told Worthy News his group knew of “several cases from the past in which police raided Christian homes.” He said police have often “implicated Christians into fake cases, simply because they are Christians.”
Mazher said Christians are often lacking funds to defend themselves in courts or in police stations.