ASIA/PAKISTAN - Despite pressure from Muslim fundamentalists local Church continues legal action after murder of 19 year old Catholic boy Anjum Javed, Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha, President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference told Fides

Saturday, 22 May 2004

Lahore (Fides Service) - Continue legal action, withstand pressure by fundamentalists, sustain the family of the murdered boy and pray: these are the lines of action adopted by the Church in Pakistan with regard to the sad case of 19 year old Catholic boy Anjum Javed, tortured by Muslim fanatics for refusing to convert to Islam and who died of injuries inflicted on May 2 in hospital in Faisalabad. Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Pakistan, in a conversation with Fides, explained the situation.
“We are going ahead with legal action. One man has been arrested and two other suspects are being questioned. In the meantime fundamentalists are pressuring the Javed family to withdraw the report but we will not give in to this pressure. The Church is behind Anjum’s family to ensure that the legal process goes ahead and the culprits are punished according to the law ”.
the Archbishop informed us that “the Bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission has made the case known at the national and international levels, and various human rights organisation have written Pakistan’s President Musharraf urging him to take measures to counter extremists and religious intolerance”.
“Javed - Archbishop Saldanha underlined - died for his faith, preferring to give up his life rather than his faith despite the tortures inflicted. These elements make him a ‘martyr’. Among Christians in Pakistan there is growing insecurity and fear also for possible reactions to what is happening in Iraq and Middle East. We pray that Christians in Pakistan may be spared violence and allowed to live in peace”.
Local sources told Fides that Anjum’s grieving father, Pervez Masih, affirmed: “I do not know why they killed my son. They attack us because we are followers of Christ”. In the meantime the family has had to suspend harvesting grain to follow the case and this is causing serious economic damage. Anjum was the third of six sons. The local Church is providing the family with economic assistance and the lawyer Tahir Khalil is offering his legal services free of charge.
The episode was strongly criticised by Shahbaz Batti, leader of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, who said: “This brutal, barbarous act must be condemned by all levels by those who love peace. We call for the immediate intervention by President Musharraf and we call on the highest authorities to see that the criminals are arrested and punished. It is the government’s duty to protect minority communities and to eliminate at the roots elements which create anarchy and harm the country. We ask for the case to be dealt with by the anti-terrorism Court, and for the trial to be swift and just”.
Doctors who tried in vain to save Anjum’s life said it was clear that the boy had been tortured: the body showed 26 knife wounds, burns, torn out finger nails, electric charges to ear drums, beating on kidneys and liver, one broken arm and numerous bruises. The boy was given immediate dialysis but died of kidney failure.
Fundamentalists went as far as to threaten medical staff, pressuring them to change their report with regard to the evident signs of torture.
The atmosphere of threats from fundamentalists seemed to overshadow local media, which at first did not report the crime and only spoke of the case when it was known internationally.
The boy’s father and the family lawyer deposited the first Report on Violence against Anjum with the police on 26 April. On May 2 police arrested Ghulam Rasool, one of the teachers at the Jamia Hassan Bin Murtaza Madrasa, near Toba Tek Sing where Anjum was tortured for five days. On May 12 two suspected accomplices were detained. The police have not yet arrested the head teacher Ghulam Murtaza Shah identified by the boy as one of his aggressors; for fear that it could unleash violence on the part of extremist Islamic groups.
Javed, aged 19 was from Quetta. He died on 2 May at Faisalabad hospital of 26 knife wounds inflicted by teachers and students at an Islamic school five days earlier. On 17 April Javed was in Toba Tek Singh, 310 km south of Islamabad. He was walking along a street and had just passed the Jamia Hassan bin Almurtaza Koranic School when he was suddenly surrounded and abducted by a teacher and a group of students from the school. He was tortured for 5 days and in the end his condition was so serious that his aggressors took him to the nearest police station and reported that he had been caught stealing. The police took the boy immediately to hospital but the doctors were unable to save him and he died of his wounds. His funeral was held at Sacred Heart church in Gojra on May 3 presided by Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad.
Pakistan has a population of 155 million 97% Muslim mostly Sunni with 20% Shiite. Christians form 2.5%, including 1.2 million Catholics. (PA) (Fides Service 22/5/2004; lines 75 words 850)