A Christian man has been booked on accusations of blasphemy and subsequently arrested by the Dinga Police Station in Gujrat. The man, identified as Shehzad, was taken into custody by the Dinga police on the complaint of Nadeem Ahmed, a leading figure in the Tehreek e Tahafuz e Islam (TTIP), Pakistan.
The TTIP have since then circulated pictures of the Shehzad Masih on the internet through their social media platforms with derogatory and threatening captions. The group has also declared their intent to murder Shehzad if he is released by the police, their leaders asking their workers not to be deterred by the recent hanging of Mumtaz Qadri. The TTIP also released pictures of their FIR as well as of their leader, Saqib Jalali, outside the police station after lodging the FIR.
Saqib Jalali, who appears as a prominent figure on the poster of the TTIP with the title of ‘Ghazi’ before his name, can be seen in pictures and videos of the incident surrounded by people and telling them the course of action that the group will take if the accused is released by the police. The cleric in his talk asked the crowd and members of the Tehreek to be brave enough to take matters into their own hands if Shehzad is released by the police, and to kill him. He urged them not to fear death and not be afraid because of the recent hanging of Mumtaz Qadri.
Shehzad, who works as a sweeper for a local hospital, was accused of blasphemy by a member of the TTIP who works with him at the same hospital, Ishtiaq Ahmed Jalai.
The FIR states that Shehzad’s colleague, Ishtiaq Jalali, came to the shop of Nadeem Ahmad and told him that Shehzad had uttered blasphemous words in a conversation with him. Nadeem Ahmed, who claims to be the regional president of the TTIP, said that the accused was brought to Ahmed’s mobile shop (Popular Mobile) after being taken from his home, by two men by force. After being brought to the shop after which the witnesses claim the accused repeated his words. The witnesses to this included Ahmed, Jalali and also one other, Abdur Rehman.
Representatives of the Dinga Police Station told Pakistan Today that the inquiry into the matter was still going on. When asked whether anything had been done regarding the threats made by the TTIP through Saqib, the police said “Right now he is in custody and is in no danger. If he is declared not-guilty by the court then it is not our matter what happens to him after he is released.”
When pressed regarding this statement, the police spokesperson retracted saying “We will look into finding a solution when push comes to shove.” At the given moment, the police has not and likely will not take any action against the blatant threats made by Saqib Jalali and his supporters.
The Police spokesman also confirmed that an annual rally that the Tehreek has been conducting for some years now is set to go on as scheduled where Saqib Jalali and Nadeem Ahmed, the issuer of death threats and the FIR respectively, are expected to speak.
People were first alerted to the imminent danger Shehzad Masih would be if he were to be released through a copy of the FIR circulating on social media.
Moreover, the fact that his pictures have been shared by the group after they said they would do away with him if he is released shows that Shehzad has a target on his back if he is eventually released. The crowd outside the police station listening to Saqib Jalali also meant that
The FIR and pictures of the accused were also stated by activist and lawyer Jibran Nasir. Nasir claims that Shehzad was not only taken to the shop but also to the Jammia Rizvia in Dinga, which is a stronghold of the group. He says that it was from here that the police were actually pressurised into registering a phony case against the Christian hospital worker.
The TTIP is a relatively new organisation which describes its aims as taking action regarding ‘Namoos e Risalat.’ According to its mission statement written on its website, the TTIP was formed after taking inspiration from the killing of Salman Taseer at the hands of Mumtaz Qadri. The fact that such a group can be allowed not only to openly go to police stations, lodge FIRs, threaten a man not yet convicted with murder on his possible release and then hold a public gathering is disturbing to say the least.