Lahore Christian community suffers gun attack causing injuries to men and women
London: A gun attack on a Christian community in Lahore left several injured and received medical attention. Fear has gripped the Christian enclave of Shamsabad, Sherakot, which fears further attacks.
The attack began after an argument between a Christian named Asghar Masih (46) and a local drug lord named Shamsad Dogar. At around 6 p.m. on August 5, Mr. Masih was on his way home from work and noticed drug trafficking near his property. He glanced at the dealer for a little too long and Mr. Dogar, who was with a group of associates, shouted at him “Choorah (derogatory name for Christians), you are not allowed to be in these streets, get out of here. “
In response, Mr. Masih replied, “I have every right to be here, this is my home and I have lived there for many years.
The retaliation angered Mr. Dogar who smashed the handle of his pistol into Mr. Masih’s face, causing serious injuries and bleeding.
Mr. Masih fell in pain and Mr. Dogar and his acolytes walked away from the neighborhood laughing and joking, while shouting insults at Mr. Masih.
Mr. Masih got up and was able to go to Sherakot police station and file a complaint for unprovoked assault. After reporting the crime, Mr. Masih went to Lahore Service Hospital for treatment.
The next day (September 6) was quite normal for Mr. Masih until around 2:15 p.m., when a dozen armed and masked Muslim henchmen began a gun attack on Christians in Shamsabad. Kalashnikovs and other heavy weapons were used to carry out the attack which lasted about 30 minutes. Hundreds of bullets were fired at homes and a local church, injuring six people, including a pregnant woman.
Frightened local Christians called emergency services at number 15 for immediate police assistance. But to their dismay, police arrived 45 minutes later, by which time the masked gunmen had already fled. Police met with local Christians, reassured them that the gunmen had left the area, and asked the victims to file a first information report (FIR) registration request through the community leaders.
FIR No. 1564/21 was registered against the culprits under Articles 324 148 149 of the PPC.
148. Riot, armed with a deadly weapon:
Anyone who is guilty of rioting, armed with a deadly weapon or anything which, used as a weapon of crime, is likely to cause death, will be punished with imprisonment of one or the other. for up to three years, or well, or both.
149. Any member of an illegal assembly guilty of an offense committed in the pursuit of a common object:
If an offense is committed by a member of an illegal assembly in the pursuit of the common object of that assembly, or such that the members of that assembly knew it was likely to be committed in the pursuit of that object, any person who, at the time of the commission of this offense, is a member of the same assembly, is guilty of this offense.
324. Attempted to commit qatl-i-amd *:
Anyone who commits an act with such intent or knowledge, and under such circumstances, that if by such act caused qatl, he would be guilty of qatl-i-amd, shall be punished with imprisonment for the one or the other description for a period which may extend to ten years 129[but shall not be less than five years if the offence has been committed in the name or on the pretext of honour] 129, and will also be liable to a fine, and, if such an act causes harm to a person, the offender will, in addition to the aforementioned imprisonment and fine, be liable to the penalty prescribed for the harm caused :
Provided that when the punishment for evil is qisas which is not enforceable, the culprit will be liable to arsh and may also be punished with imprisonment of either description for a period of up to seven years.
* qatl-i-amd is the intent to cause death or injury.
Despite the efforts of local leaders and the BACA, Sherakot police will not prosecute gunmen under the anti-terrorism law, which provides for harsher death sentences or a life sentence. This despite clear evidence that the attack targeted a particular faith group with the intention of instilling terror – which the gunmen managed to do.
BACA met some of the victims
BACA officer meets Asif Masih
Asif Masih (40) had just returned from work when he heard gunshots. A state of panic set in and he found himself rushing to his house, to protect his three young children all under the age of 10, who were playing in the backyard of his house at the time. He directed his children towards the house to a room in which he lives, but several bullets passed through the door of his house and injured both of his legs. No one else was injured at his home.
He told BACA,
“I was shot in both thighs as I closed the large metal doors to my house.
“The bullets went through the metal of my door, they were fired with such force.
“I thought I was going to die and yelled at my kids and brought them into our one room house.
“Bullets pierced the walls of my house, but God protected my children and my wife and we knelt on the ground praying for his protection. “
Munira Yousaf (28), wife of Pastor Yousaf Bashir (32) was shot in the attack, gunshot to her right arm near the elbow. Pastor Yousaf, explained:
“The attack started at the church which is in the middle of the street where the Christians live.
“From there the armed men dispersed and started shooting at all the Christian houses without missing one.
“The Dogars are known as drug and crime lords in the region and are considered very dangerous by the locals.
“I saw about 8 armed men, but there could have been more.
“I had not been out long enough to see that, like other Christians, I was seeking protection in my home.
“In total, these men attacked nearly 18 Christian homes. “
Local resident Mr Nasir (38) described the incident to the British Asian Christian Association field team, he said:
“I was at work and my boss called me to tell me that my wife [Irshad Bibi (36 yrs)] had been shot.
“My speech collapsed and I rushed home to find my wife unable to walk because she had been shot in both feet after bullets pierced the wall of our house.
“I rushed her to the on-ward hospital for treatment and I still remember the pain in her eyes – it still traumatizes me.”
Maria Kashif (28) was shot in the right foot and was shot twice in the right thigh. Her husband Mr Kashif (30) expressed his anger at the attack, he said:
“We didn’t even know who Dilshad Dogar was until this attack
“Five members of my family were injured by the random shooting of the Dilshad Dogar gang.
“My wife and I were hanging on to each other and our children in our house, but bullets went through our walls and Maria was hit.
“The police seem very reluctant to do anything about this attack, Christians can expect no protection in Pakistan. “
Sherakot police collected nearly 400 empty bullet shells fired from the devastating automatic weapons used by the attackers. But so far no one has been arrested.
Nirma Shamoon (22), a six-month-pregnant expectant mother, was shot in the thigh of her right leg. Although she fell to the ground immediately, she landed as carefully as she could. Doctors have confirmed her baby is safe at the moment. Mr Shamoon went to pick up his wife during the shooting and took her from their yard to the relative safety of their home, where they began to pray for their protection and the safety of their embryonic child.
Mr Shamoon said:
“I thank God that Nirma and our child are safe despite Nirma’s shooting.
“The plaintiffs in this case are terrified and are ready to forgive the culprits out of fear.
“But we want to fight for justice, our child should not be brought up in a world where we can be shot without retaliation.
“I hope other Christians are courageous and strive for righteousness.
“These men should be locked up and set an example to prevent others from acting so viciously.”
Another Christian woman named Samina Bibi was seriously injured after a bullet hit her in the stomach, causing her intestines to rupture. Samina underwent difficult surgery at the Lahore Service Hospital and is still in serious condition. Samina and her family fled their home and moved to another area for fear of further Muslim brutality.
Dilshad Dogar and Muhammad Chand Khencha have already obtained a bond before their arrest. But a hearing for this case is set for October 1 at Sessions Court Lahore. The British Asian Christian Association has prepared a lawyer to fight for Mr Shamoon and his family and others who are ready to stand up for justice. We ask families to raise individual FIRs against those responsible for the attack. This will prevent the case from failing if frightened families, rightly so, choose not to sue.
Juliet Chowdhry, Director of the British Asian Christian Association, said:
“This is neither the first nor the last gun attack Christians have faced in Pakistan.
“It is beyond belief that attacks like this can occur in Pakistan and in almost all cases the known perpetrators have been released.
“By the grace of God, in this attack no one was killed, but does it really take massive deaths before the Pakistani authorities act?
“When Prime Minister Imran delivered his election speech, he said he wanted to ‘create a (new) Pakistan nayya’.
“If Imran Khan wants his government to be taken seriously, then this time he must ensure that justice is served. “
Update September 30, 2021: Our lawyer BACA successfully challenged the Sherakot police to include crimes under Pakistan’s 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act (click here), which will now be included in tomorrow’s hearing.
BACA provides a lawyer for this community, which is an expensive endeavor and we need your help to fund this legal support in order to ensure justice. We would also like to help with the medical costs that were incurred by the victims. We also plan to offer small grants for the wages lost by these impoverished families, due to injuries preventing employees from being able to work.
Injured in both thighs, Asif Masih was unable to go to work.