Untouchables to Victory

Amjad, Sakina* and their children lived in Alipur Chatta, a small village near Gujranwala. It’s not a very big locality, and mostly everyone runs small businesses from their homes. One day while Amjad was at work, Sakina* bought desi ghee worth Rs. 500/- from the neighbor as per usual. When she came home, however, Amjad’s younger brother realized that the ghee had been diluted with water and reported the same to Sakina. Incidentally, at the insistence of the wife of the Complainant, Sakina went back to the neighbor’s house (Saleem Bibi) to return the ghee.

However, when she explained what was wrong with the ghee and that she now wants to return it, the woman refused to take it back saying that since Sakina is Christian and the ghee was in her container it had been contaminated. Naturally, this antagonized Sakina and an argument broke out. Heated words were exchanged and, after Saleem Bibi attacked Sakina’s religion once again, the argument took a “religious” turn.

Since it is a small locality, the argument was audible (and visible) to most of the villagers. Unfortunately for Sakina, most of the villagers were Muslims and they took unnecessary offence to whatever she said. For the remainder of the day, this became neighborhood gossip.

The next day, early morning, the Complainant’s wife, along with 4-5 other women from the same family, paid an unfriendly visit to Sakina during which they lambasted and physically assaulted her. She did not receive any serious injuries, but was badly bruised.

The same day, the neighbors reported Sakina to the concerned maulvi who then gathered everyone around and went to Police Station Ali Pur Chatta.  An FIR was launched against Sakina (u/s.295-C) and, on the same day, the police raided their house in the afternoon. At the time, Amjad’s three children, his sister-in-law Surayya, younger sister Kiran and younger brother Malik (20 years old) along with Sakina were home. Amjad was at work, as was his other younger brother Shahbaz (18 years old).

Three full police vans raided Sakina’s house, picked her up and took her to the police station. Two men then proceeded to where Shahbaz works (about 2km away) and forcefully took him to the police station without telling him why. Sakina and Shahbaz were detained in the same cell at the police station; Shahbaz was not named in the FIR.

Sakina was produced before the Magistrate and was given judicial remand and sent to Central Jail, Gujranwala. Shahbaz, however, was detained for two more days at another nearby police station.

As a result of this blasphemy case, Amjad and his family were ostracized by the neighbors. Amjad was fired from his job (he was a mechanic at a rice mill) and his eldest daughter is not being allowed to go to school in peace and therefore has stopped going altogether.

According to Amjad, a number of women in the neighbor hood (who are Muslim) have taken Sakina’s side on this, but are refusing and have stated that they will refuse to ever state this publicly.

Sakina Bibi had been accused of blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed. She was arrested in March, along with her 1.5 year old son, and faced the mandatory death penalty if convicted under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code.

The case was heard under strict security, following last month’s attack and murder of Christian pastors Rashid and Sajid Emmanuel as they left a Faisalabad court where they, too, were answering blasphemy charges.

Sakina’s case was pending before Learned Addl. Session’s Judge, Wazirabad, who although rejected Sakina’s bail petition, was surprisingly inclined towards an acquittal. This is quite noteworthy as most acquittals, if not all, in blasphemy cases are secured at the appeal stage before the High Court; an acquittal at this early stage in the trial is virtually unheard of.

The 25-year-old mother of three spent almost six months in Gujranwala jail with her one and a half year old son, Joshua, but was released in 2010 following the judge’s ruling. Sakina’s accuser had recently offered to settle the matter out of court if she converted to Islam.


Disclaimer: *All the names have been changed for the security reasons.

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