Kamran Chaudhry, Lahore
Updated: November 29, 2020 01:23 AM GMT
Qamar Bhatti was kidnapped by three men in June and tortured in a flat. (Photo: Facebook video)
Christian sanitary worker Qamar Bhatti filed a police complaint after his abductors filmed him naked, recorded the assault and uploaded the video on the internet.
Bhatti was kidnapped by three men in June and tortured in a flat on Gurdat Singh Road of Quetta in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. He registered a first information report on Nov. 25 after the torture video went viral this week. Police have arrested two brothers of the accused, who are still at large.
“Five criminals were involved in my scandal. They tricked me into getting a loan. Although I returned it, they claimed further interest. They abducted me from outside my house, kept beating me and took me to a flat. I kept pleading but they tortured me with ropes, pipes and punches,” Bhatti stated in a Facebook post.
“I can’t tell what happened with me. It was horrible. ‘You will become a lesson for the Christians and won’t think of taking money from people like us,’ said Qasim [one of the kidnappers]. He stripped me naked, taking away my dignity. When he became tired of beating me, he forcefully placed a rosary on my neck. ‘This will be your biggest punishment,’ he said. ‘Nobody, not this cross, can save you,’ he said, tearing away the rosary.
“Everybody has seen the viral video. I demand justice from the chief minister of Balochistan, the provincial assembly and ministers to punish them.”
In an application to Pakistan Minority Rights Commission (PMRC), Bhatti said his abductors took 375,000 rupees (US$2,360) from him and placed red pepper in his anus.
“They threatened to make the video viral and to do the same with my wife and children if I shared it with anyone. I am disgraced. The situation is forcing me to commit suicide. If I don’t get justice, I will set myself on fire together with my children at a crossroads so that the whole world knows this bestiality and knows what happens to a poor man,” he said.
Human rights groups have condemned the crime.
“The smelly society was stripped naked. These faces believe cleanliness is half faith but consider Qamar as cheap, lesser and untouchable. The state aids this organized impudence,” said Samson Salamat, chairman of Rwadari Tehreek (movement for religious tolerance).
Pakistani Christians are often referred as chura (low caste), an abusive term reserved for sanitation workers. Historically, they have been assigned jobs seen as degrading and defiling. Road sweepers are mostly Christian and are called untouchable or low-born.
In September, a human rights group slammed the government of Pakistan’s Sindh province for a job advertisement that invited applications from non-Muslims for a sanitation post.
The Karachi-based government advert was published in widely circulated Urdu newspaper Jang. Among other posts, the job specified only non-Muslims for the post of sanitary worker.
In June, the Municipal Corporation (West) Karachi announced 28 vacancies in various categories in an advertisement that appeared in local newspapers. It reserved sanitary jobs solely for non-Muslims.
Catholic Church officials have repeatedly asked lawmakers to put an end to the culture of placing advertisements that further stigmatize marginalized minorities.
Pastor Irfan James, a Lahore-based missionary, demanded punishment for Bhatti’s attackers.
“The Christian nation should unite to fight them. Those protesting against France are absent. If this had happened to a Muslim, protests would have come out referring to Burma [Myanmar], Kashmir or Palestine. Some of our cassock-laden actors would have been with them,” he said.
“Pakistan is becoming hell for Christians. I would like to hereby request the UN, Amnesty International and all international media to raise a voice for persecuted Christians throughout Pakistan.”
However, PMRC denied that the assault on Qamar Bhatti was a case of religious persecution.
“Qamar couldn’t return the loan due to the coronavirus slump. He took money from local Christians of Quetta. We want to clarify that the nature of this case is not of a minority or religious because the main accused in this case are Christians. Therefore, do not give this case a religious angle,” the NGO said in a Nov. 26 statement.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) highlighted increasing persecution of minorities in a statement issued on Nov. 26.
“Pakistan was part of the consensus at the UN General Assembly that required that states take active measures to ensure that persons belonging to religious minorities may exercise fully and effectively all their human rights and fundamental freedoms without any discrimination and in full equality before the law,” said Ian Seiderman, legal and policy director at the ICJ.