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Prosecutor removed from post for offering exoneration in exchange for conversion to Islam

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A deputy district public prosecutor (DDPP) has been removed from an anti-terrorism court (ATC) after he allegedly asked 42 under-trial Christians accused in a lynching case to 'embrace Islam and go free.'  In his proselytizing conversation with the accused Christians the prosecutor is said have read sections of the Quran, to intimidate them to convert.

Sources in the Punjab Prosecution Department told The Express Tribune that DDPP Syed Anees Shah was removed on Thursday night on the complaint of the accused.

According to a source in the department, Shah has been temporarily removed from post and will not be involved in any future cases. “He has been asked to report to the office of Punjab Prosecutor General till further orders.

A new  DDPP named Muhammad Azir has replaced Anees at the ATC-1,” he said.

Meanwhile, PTI’s Christian MPA Shunila Ruth filed a resolution in the Punjab Assembly on Friday, seeking condemnation from the house for the act of the prosecutor. She also requested for directions to stop discrimination against the Christians because of their faith.


Shunila Ruth

On March 15, 2015, suicide attacks were carried out outside two churches in Youhanabad, triggering violent protests during which two Muslim men were burned to death after a mob suspected them as accomplices of the attackers.
The victims were identified as Babar Noman, a garment worker, and Hafiz Naeem, a glass cutter, of the same locality. Later, Nishtar Town police registered two FIRs against the accused.

The ATC on January 10, 2016 indicted 42 suspects for the lynching. The suspects pleaded not guilty and opted to contest their trial. No one has so far been arrested on charges of carrying out the blasts or facilitating them. However the accused Christians are behind bars for the last two years.

So far 10 out of total 92 witnesses have recorded their testimonies in the case. The next date of hearing is April 4.

Defence lawyers have intimated that they believe at least 30 of the accused men are totally innocent of any crime. 

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, asserted more leniency should have been shown by the courts.  He said:

"These men were in a state of extreme trauma having just witnessed a bomb attack in which dozens were killed and scores injured. Their heightened level of hysteria no doubt contributed to a frenzy related attack.

"Charges of murder seem severe in such circumstances and these men should be indicted under a lesser penalty law of manslaughter."

Local Christians have confirmed that two policemen had apprehended the Muslim men and believed them to be suspects. They believe that the Police officers released them to Christian rioters.

BPCA is now collecting funds to help the families of the accused as many of them have been without a bread-winner for 2 years.  If you would like to contribute please (click here)

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:

"It is heartening to see that action has been taken by the Anti-Terrorism Court in suspending Mr Anees Shah, but quite frankly the whole debacle has only served to highlight ongoing prejudice in the Judicial system.

"Mr Shah's action implies that being Muslim places any citizen above the rule of law, a damning indictment of governance within the nation."

Mr Chowdhry, added:

"It would be foolish and unwise to assume that the removal of one obviously fundamental prosecutor has been a panacea for a flawed and biased judiciary.

"Quite the contrary, I believe the majority of law-makers in Pakistan treat Christians as anathema.  

"Failures to convict anyone after the attack on Gojra in 2009, St Josephs Colony in 2013 and many other similar cases have illustrated the existence of impunity for Muslims who attack Christians.

"Worse still, the fact that no arrests were made for any of the men involved in the actual twin church bomb attack in 2015, yet 500 were arrested and 42 indicted for the ensuing riot that led to the death of two Muslim men, insidiously implies Christian lives are worth less then Muslim lives. "

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