A Boy in a Rickshaw

By – Shamim Masih

ISLAMABAD: The formation of Pakistan (as religious extremist think) and the search for an Islamic identity are inextricably linked of the wider issues of global politics and rise of Islamic fundamentalism has been a side- effect, and religious intolerance places the minorities of the country in a shaky position.

On February 11, young Christian Asim Saleem 22, (rickshaw driver) went to see his girl friend, Sunair 20 of a Muslim background. He intended to marry her but his parents kept thwarting him and demanded that he should avoid her. The couple decided to take the bold step of cross-faith marriage a dangerous ambition in Pakistan, and got married that same day in the local court. Asim didn’t involve his parents while marrying the girl. So the couple eloped and travelled away from their families. On the very same day, religious leaders informed of the marriage by Sunair’s family went to the Christian community where Saleem lived and demanded recovery of the Muslim girl. Saleem and other community members were unaware of the elopement and marriage and requested some time to investigate, but they couldn’t find them during the given time period. Muslims under the leadership of Qari Sohail returned and warned the local people that if they could not produce the couple; Muslim mob would return and sat ablaze their houses. They warned the residents that people would be executed in retribution.

A few terrified Christians found courage to inform the police about this critical situation and rest fled to escape to the nearby place to save their life and their loved ones. Police became alert and ready to suppress any violence. On Friday, 14 February, after Jumma prayer, a large mob travelled to the Christian enclave intending to vandalize Nazarat Colony. However local police surrounded the Christian houses of Nazarat Colony. Christian inhabitants of the said colony were already fled the homes for safety as soon as a precaution against further attempts.

In a bizarre twist of events, the police have filed a case against Asim Saleem, first investigation report – FIR 114/14 under section of abduction and enforced matrimony, PP 265-B. A further allegation has been made against him for theft of Rs. 54000/- and gold of 5 grams. However these allegations are reportedly false. The police also arrested two Christian men, Bashir Masih 45 and Shaukat Masih 35 who are the cousins and the father of the accused. Both were allegedly tortured and forced to make a confession admitting to be involved in taking hostage the Muslim girl. Father of the accused died of a heart attack whilst in custody. The investigation officer – IO, Mohd Shabbir stated that the police kept these two for their own good and well being. He advised that all action taken was for the safety of Christian community; for they have to show them that the administration has kept those to convince the extremists. Later they were released, with sore bodied.

Christians and Hindu girls are abducted, forcefully converted to Islam and married to influential Muslims, but police do not file any case against Muslims even the court do not support in this matter. But if Muslim girl marries a Christian boy willingly, extremists arrive to vandalize the Christian communities. Isn’t inhuman?