Upset with their objections to discrimination, factory owner uses police to beat them.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, May 12 (CDN) — Police illegally detained three Christians on false charges of alcohol possession in Sialkot last week at the request of their Muslim employer.
The men – garment factory workers Atif Masih, Kamran Masih and Naveed Gill – said they had objected to their boss demanding they work on Sundays. Factory owner Rana Ejaz promptly accused them of selling alcohol, which is forbidden to Muslims in Pakistan and illegal to sell without a permit.
On May 4 the station house officer of Paka Garah, Sialkot, arrested the three Christians even though Ejaz had filed neither a First Information Report nor registered a written complaint, the Christians said.
“We went to the factory for work at 9 a.m. on May 4, and at around 11 a.m. we were arrested by the SHO [station house officer],” Atif Masih said. “We were severely beaten and asked to give a false statement that we sold alcohol.”
Authorities released them after three days when local human rights groups charged that they had been illegally detained.
Paka Garah police SHO Zulfiqar Ali refused to comment after their release. Previously he had said, “We arrested the three from the factory, and they confessed that they sell alcohol.” Parents of the three Christians denied the charge, asserting that their sons had been falsely accused.
Factory owner Rana Ejaz reportedly said, “I did all this on the advice of the SHO, Zulfiqar, so that I could terminate the Christian workers.”
Kamran Masih said Ejaz seemed to object to the crosses the Christians wore since they began work at the factory last year.
“He didn’t say it, but he used to look at the cross with strange looks,” Kamran Masih said. “Then since February, he said that no one will be allowed to wear a cross at work.”
In March Ejaz began demanding that only the Christian employees come to work on Sundays, Kamran Masih said.
“No other Christians raised any voice,” he said. “We were the only ones to stand up and ask for permission to go to church on Sundays, but he threatened us with dire consequences.”
Their local priest, the Rev. Illyas Mall, said he had known the three families for more than 40 years.
“None of their family members have ever been involved in anything illegal,” he said.
Likewise a friend of the three Christians who spoke on condition of anonymity said they had never touched alcohol and were detained only because Ejaz is a good friend of the SHO, “so he got them illegally detained and tortured.”
Report from Compass Direct News