Christian men falsely implicated in Jaranwala controversy

Facts report about the tense situation of Christians in Jaranwala who are raising their voice against the assailants who were involved in the Jaranwala attack last year.

On March 18, 2024, the Christian community in Jaranwala 61-GB District Faisalabad found itself embroiled after the registration of an FIR against nine of its men. These Christian men are booked in FIR No. 456/2024 on a false allegation offence under section 427, 506-B, 148/149 PCC registered at police station Sadaar Tehsil Jaranawala District Faisalabad.

The FIR lodged by Muhammad Afzal against Arif Masih, Riyasat Masih along with seven others, of hostile action, allegedly attempted to barge into Afzal’s residence on March 16, 2024. He further alleged that the Christian men gave threats of killing to one Muhammad Bilal son of Muhammad Sajad a resident of the same vicinity.

However, the members of the local Christian community shared that Muhammad Bilal is implicated in the Jaranawala church attack on the Salvation Army. Javed son of Barkat Masih In-charge pastor of the Salvation Army Church situated at 61-GB Jaranawala lodged an FIR No. 1296/ 2023 offence under section 427, 436, 295, 295-A, 148/149 PPC and 7ATA at police station Sadar Jaranawala against the attackers about 100-150 unknown persons, who ransacked the building and things lying inside the church on August 16, 2023, after the blasphemy allegation against two Christians brothers.

Arif Masih who is the eye witness of the incident of the attack on the Salvation Army Church identified an accused Muhammad Bilal through video footage. Arif Masih during the investigation pointed out the name of that person before the concerned DSP (Deputy Superintendent of Police). Due to the said reason Muhammad Bilal hatched a conspiracy with Muhammad Afzal and lodged false FIR against Arif Masih, his three maternal nephews, two paternal nephews and other relatives. The complex situation raises serious questions about the motives behind the FIR and the police’s subsequent action. The incident is evidence of religious discrimination, police impartiality, and the intricacies of communal conflict.

After knowing this issue by some reliable sources CLAAS contacted Arif Masih, his wife Sonia Bibi and his brother Shahbaz Masih. Arif Masih shared that the motive behind the FIR against them is trying to stop the Christians from pursuing the cases registered against invaders belonging to the majority community, who had badly burnt the houses of the Christian community and Churches in Jaranawala in the last year. He added that it is not just they and their families who are scared but the entire Christian community of that area find itself in fear grappling with the implications of these accusations.

The case has also highlighted a great concern about the rights and safety of minorities in Pakistan. Moreover, this incident draws attention to the importance of addressing the issues of religious intolerance, social injustice, and protection of religious minorities, discrimination, and unjust accusations.