By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A Christian rights official in Pakistan is demanding police protection for himself and family members after his brother was shot and injured following a series of threats and attacks.
Sardar Mushtaq Gill, who heads the Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD) advocacy group, told BosNewsLife that the shooting took place April 1 in the Kasur District of Punjab province. “Pervaiz Gill suffered a bullet wound to his lower back, and was rushed to Jinah Hospital in Lahore [city] where it was removed,” he said.
However, “the police is not arresting the shooter” who was publicly identified as Muhammad Bilal, also known as Babla, he complained. “Our life remains under threat if the shooter is not arrested.”
Gill said the local police leader, or ‘Station House Officer’, has “apologized” for not having “authority to provide security.”
The latest shooting follows a series of attacks against Sardar Mushtaq Gill and his family by Islamic
militants who have condemned him for criticizing controversial blasphemy legislation and defending Christians.
On August 9 last year his home was shot at by three men while Mushtaq Gill’s younger brother stood outside with with two friends. A neighbour was injured in the incident and the attackers remained unidentified.
Earlier on November 2, 2013, gunshots were fired on a street outside the human rights defenders home,
following threats, he said.
Earlier that year, in July, some six members of the militant Islamic group Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat searched for Sardar Mushtaq Gill at his home.
A month earlier he had been held at gunpoint by three armed men who threatened him with “dire consequences”, over his human rights advocacy and defending Christian women, he recalled.
“I believe that the shooting of Sardar Mushtaq Gill’s brother is a direct result of the Mushtaq Gill’s human rights advocacy, in particular his role in supporting those who have been subjected to mistreatment as a result of their beliefs,” said William Nicholas Gomes, a prominent human rights activist investigating the case.
In a letter to Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain, seen by BosNewsLife, he asked him to “Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Sardar Mushtaq Gill and his family.”
It was also important to “Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the shooting” of Gill’s brother “with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards,” he wrote.
Gomes also urged the president to “Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Pakistan are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.”
This isn’t an isolated case in the officially Islamic nation. In May last year a prominent human rights lawyer defending a professor accused of blasphemy against Islam was shot dead. The killing of Rashid Rehman in the southern city Multan marked the first time a lawyer had been killed for taking on a blasphemy case, police said at the time.
Other known victims include Pakistan’s Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian, who publicly challenged the country’s controversial blasphemy laws and demanded more rights for minority Christians.
He was shot and killed in March 2011, some two months after the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by one of his security guards.
The assassin in that case said he killed the governor for criticizing the anti-blasphemy law.
Several detained Christians are among those facing the death penalty or long prison terms for “blasphemy” against Islam, including openly talking about their faith in Jesus Christ.