Roman Catholic father of five dies in police custody.
LAHORE, Pakistan, November 26, 2014 (Morning Star News) – Police here tortured a Christian to death on Saturday (Nov. 22) while the father of five was in custody on drug and alcohol charges fabricated without evidence, relatives said.
Four policemen led by Assistant Sub-Inspector Muhammad Rauf raided the home of Allah Rakha Shahzad, 35, on Friday night (Nov. 21) alleging that he was involved in selling alcohol and drugs, said Rafaqat Gill, brother-in-law to the deceased. Police took Shahzad, known as Mithu, from his Green Town residence in Lahore.
“It was a fake allegation, because the raiding party failed to recover any contraband from Mithu’s person and his house,” Gill told Morning Star News, asserting that Rauf registered a false case against the Roman Catholic father of three daughters and two sons.
Police told relatives that they were from the Green Town Police Station, but when Gill and other family members went there, the duty officer denied that Shahzad was in their custody, Gill said.
“We were then told to look for him in other police stations, which we did, only to find out later that the Green Town Police had intentionally sent us on a wild goose chase,” he said. “On the morning of Nov. 22, we were informed by Ilyas Gill, a local councilor, that Mithu had died in police custody because of heart failure.”
Ilyas Gill also allegedly serves as a “tout,” or police messenger to the community – including the task of conveying requests for bribes. Area police routinely round up young, impoverished Christians on false charges of drug peddling and bootlegging, and then force their families to pay heavy bribes in return for their release, Rafaqat Gill said.
News of Shahzad’s death shocked people in the area as well as family members, and angry local residents staged a massive protest in front of the Green Town Police Station, burning tires, reportedly setting a bus on fire and blocking the main road for several hours.
The scale of the protest compelled Lahore Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Operations Haider Ashraf to order an investigation. A First Information Report (FIR No. 1517/14) was also registered against Assistant Sub-Inspector Rauf and three officers whose names have not been revealed.
DIG Ashraf told Morning Star News that the accused police officials would be taken into custody if a post-mortem report proves that Shahzad was tortured to death.
“Proper procedures would be enforced, and we will ensure that the family is given justice,” he said, adding that he had suspended the accused police officials from duty in an effort to keep them from influencing the investigation.
The family says, however, that they have still not heard anything from police regarding the post-mortem report.
Rafaqat Gill said family elders saw signs of torture on the body – enough discoloration and contusions to suggest internal hemorrhage caused by steel rods or batons – as they were preparing it for burial. Area police are notorious for cruel forms of torture during interrogations.
He said he suspected that the inordinate delay in presenting the medical report was a police tactic to brush the matter under the carpet.
“We suspect more foul play by the police and the doctors concerned, as the hospital people told us to bury Mithu’s dead body immediately without even bathing it,” he said. “They said that they had applied ‘special’ medicines on the body during the post-mortem which could rot it so it should be buried immediately.”
Police and local Muslim thugs realize that no one will come to the aid of impoverished Christians in the nearly 96 percent Muslim country, he said. Christians make up about 2.5 percent of the population, according to Operation World.
“Young Christian men are made scapegoats to show police performance while the real culprits are carrying out their illegal activities right under the police’s nose,” Gill said. “We request the chief minister to take notice of the incident, as this is not the first time the police have targeted innocent Christians living in the area.”
Image: Flag of Pakistan. (Wikimedia)