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L-R Adil Masih, Bhola Ram and his wife.
Two Hindus - one who is a teenager and a young Christian man in Dunga Bunga, Bhawalnagar, Pakistan were accused of committing a blasphemy by burning a Quran on 28th September 2017.
Bhola Ram (50 yrs), Vishal Tariq (16 yrs), and Adil Masih (25 yrs) say they were innocent. All three of them work as cleaners but Bhola Ram was given a free home on the compound of Dunga Bunga Veterinary practice due to his long years of service.
The property he was given had been lived in by a previous employee so Bhola Ram decided to clean out his new home and called the other two men to help him. Vishal and Ail agreed to help Bhola Ram who is elderly as a kind gesture.
The men were burning some rubbish that had been found in the home including papers that were in a number of black bags. Without opening the bags Bhola began burning the papers as he was doing so he noticed some of the papers had Arabic writing with Urdu translation and he realised that some of the loose papers were from a Quran.
The location were the burning took place.
Bhola realised his error and stopped the fire by throwing water over it and collected as much of the remaining Quranic papers as possible. He went to a local Muslim man named Hajji who he knew lived next door to the school and asked him to take care of the papers. Bhola asked Hajji to look after the papers because they were sacred and explained that the burning of the papers was an accident.
The men went back to their cleaning and after they finished they returned to their homes. The men felt safe in the knowledge that they had done no wrong and had left the Quarnic papers with a Muslim man because it was the best place for them.
The next morning when they arrived at work the three men were surprised that Police were waiting for them and arrested them under Pakistan's notorious blasphemy laws. The men were told that they had burnt the Quran intentionally and that the accusers who turned out to be Hajji and his son had video evidence of their crime.
However after closer inspection the Police realised the video had been taken at a place far away from the veterinary surgery and contained no images of the three accused men. Moreover, the timing of the burning of the pages was during an evening. Moreover all the people of the community Muslim, Christian and Hindu spoke of the good character of the three men.
Without the help of any NGO the Police undertook a thorough investigation, they were careful with the accused men and did not brutalize them. All three men were released without charge within hours.
No action was taken against the men who tried to implicate the three sweepers with the false video.
Adil Masih, a committed and devoted Christian, said:
"God protected me from danger, when the accusation was made even my Hindu friends who were accused asked me to pray for them. God did not let us down and I will sing his praise forever."
Mehwish Bhatti, lead officer for the BPCA, said:
"These men were very fortunate in a remarkable example of good policing a detailed investigation led to the allegation made by troublemakers being dropped. Adil Masih has been thanking God in church by praying regular and has been sweeping the church voluntarily."
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistan Christian Association, said:
"In a country which is steeped in malevolence towards it's minorities it is heartwarming when an act of professionalism or kindness is in defiance of the normative behaviours. In protecting the innocent Hindu and Christian sweepers caught up in dangerous blasphemy charges, the police of Bhawalnagar have raised the morale of the Christian minority.
"Sadly where this police force has had a very positive influence many others fail to be as egalitarian in their approach to their duty. Nevertheless these men deserve our greatest praise for dealing with an extremely volatile situation and restoring community calm and no doubt saving three lives from the ignominy of a blasphemy sentence.
"Their actions will make it less likely that others will attempt a false blasphemy allegation in Dunga Bunga anytime soon."
"The overwhelming community support for the three men accused also illustrates that the pariah status of Christian and other minorities is not ubiquitous. In some Pakistani communities neighbours choose to speak up for one another and leaders of all faiths will be stirred to protect fellow citizens. A phenomenon that delivers hope for Pakistan yet..."
Adil Masih with his family.