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ICC (02/21/06) – The situation is getting worse day by day in Pakistan regarding the issue of the caricatures of Muhammad. After the Islamic parties and other Muslims around the world decided to protest against them violently, Christians have increasingly been targeted. The following incident shows that the safety and security of Christians living in Pakistan has been jeopardized by the Muslim reaction to the Muhammad cartoons. As we can see from the violent attacks of the protestors on February 14th, 2006, their attitude is that they can violate every law and destroy anything that comes in their way in the name of religion.

This story shows a little progress, while at the same time revealing extreme forms of legally and socially sanctioned discrimination. This time the police played a very positive role by discouraging the complainant and protecting the innocent. Partners in Pakistan have been allowing the police to take time to settle the situation and have not pushed the police to hand over the custody of a young Christian as they want to settle the matter through dialogue rather then handling the matter legally. They fear that if they take the matter to court the news of a Christian showing the caricatures will spread like wildfire and harm the security of other Christians living in the country. Therefore, they will have to wait and cooperate with the police until the innocent Mohsin comes home safely.

On the 16th of February, 2006, at 8:00 p.m. the police of Nishtar Town, Lahore raided the area of Youhana-abad and arrested a young Christian named Mohsin, 21, alleging that he showed controversial caricatures of Prophet Mohammad in his net café.

On the 17th of February, a team of Christian leaders went to investigate the matter as it was reported that there might be a possible attack of Muslim extremists on Christians of Youhana-abad. The investigation team met the locals of Youhanan-abad and inquired about the situation. The people seemed frightened and the atmosphere was tense as it was Friday and there was news that a call has been made for all the Muslims in Pakistan to go out on processions after Friday prayer. Also the people feared that since the protestors had ravaged several buildings, restaurants and other places on February 14th, the news of showing caricatures might inflame the Muslims to attack Christians not only in Youhana-abad but other places where Christians are in the majority.

It was told to the team that on February 16th, 2006, an unknown Muslim made an emergency call to the police on 15 (emergency call number for police) and complained that Mohsin has been showing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in his net café. The police raided the place and took Mohsin along with the complainant. The team was told that the whole night the police kept them both in its custody and investigated the matter. It is worth mentioning here that a few Mullahs also joined the investigation to support the complainant but Mohsin was alone as his family members were not allowed to sit with him during the investigation. The team then met the SHO of Nishtar Town Police Station, Mohammad Anwar and asked him about the current situation, who informed the team that every thing was under control and he had discouraged the complainant as he knew that this issue has been raised to disturb the peace in the country. He further told the team that he has kept the complainant and the accused, Mohsin, under his custody for protection and will set Mohsin free after the situation gets better. He also told the team that the complainant lives in another city (Faisalabad) and had come to Lahore for work and works in a local factory and lives in Dulam (adjacent town to Youhana-abad) but refused to give his name for security measures.

The team proposed that the SHO give the custody of Mohsin to them as there had been no case registered against him and they can provide him with the security, but the SHO refused to do so and requested the team to give him some time and he will allow Mohsin to go with his family. The SHO Anwar also told the team that he had visited the mosques that were near Youhana-abad and had told the Maulvies that there was no such incident happened in the area and they should remain calm. He also told the team that he had sent policemen and ordered them to stand alert on the main entrance of Youhana-abad, and some reserve police were on alert in the police station.

The local people had prepared an application to the DIG Lahore for protection mentioning that the Mullahs of the surrounding mosques especially Masjid Ibrahim had been making plan to attack the Christian population of Youhana-abad but they did not submit it to him as the SHO had insured them for full protection.

The team left the place and reached the office of NCJP and after discussing the situation and receiving a call that Christians had been gathering in the main street and the market was being closed and also the Friday prayer was about to finish; it was decided that the application written by the locals should be faxed to the DIG Lahore to take necessary action in providing protection to the Christians. Another general application was made for the protection of other Christian areas in Lahore . It was informed to the team that the SP Model Town area came to Youhana-abad with 5 buses of police with policemen armed and ready to deal with every violator of peace. The source had visited the place after a fax was made to the DIG Lahore .

Later in the evening at 7:00 p.m. the team again went to Youhana-abad to meet with the family of Mohsin and met his brother Nasir who works in the SLMP and assured him for every possible support for the safety of his brother Mohsin, who was falsely alleged for showing the caricatures of Prophet Mohammad. It was decided that the local Nazim (Mayor) of the area, who happens to be a Christian should be contacted and requested to bring back Mohsin safely. Mr. Tariq Javed Tariq, the local Nazim of Union Council 142 assured the team and the family of Mohsin that he will make sure that nothing should happen to Mohsin as he had a meeting with the SHO who ensured the Nazim that he would release Mohsin later that night. The Nazim told the team that he would accompany the family of Mohsin to the police station later at 10:00 p.m. as the SHO had promised to deliver the boy by that time.

At 12:00 a.m. on February 18th the team was informed that there was a meeting with the SHO in presence of the family of Mohsin and the Nazim and the SHO had assured them that he will release Mohsin after two to three days as he is under a lot of pressure from the Mullahs and he wants to show them that he is not going to take the perpetrator lightly, but he assured that he has been given orders by the DSP of his area to settle the matter peacefully and not to allow the Mullahs to ignite the matter as it would damage the peace in the country among the Christian and Muslim community. The SHO who was not allowing the family of Mohsin to meet him told his family that his mother and other family members could come in the morning and meet him as he was kept in a safe place away from the police station.

Today on February 18th at 3:00 p.m. the team was informed that Mohsin and his family members were safe and sound. As the SHO had been discouraging the complainant, when asked he said that he had been involved in this case by the local Maulvies and he felt ashamed for making false accusation against Mohsin for showing controversial caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad. In addition, the SHO did not seem willing to release Mohsin until Monday. Therefore, they want to wait until Monday and hope that Mohsin will be with his family on Monday February 20th.