Karachi: Female Christian official for Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) threatened with blasphemy death by a Muslim colleague over parking dispute


London: (By Hannah Chowdhry and Juliet Chowdhry)  Saleem while he threatened Samina Mushtaq taken as screenshot from video

A Christian widow who heads the Immediate Clearance Group (ICG), cargo-crew security team at Jinnah International Airport, Karachi, for Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), was threatened with death or a report of blasphemy by a CAA official over a parking dispute.

Fortunately, the Christian woman’s argument with the official was recorded on a telephone and the nation’s humanitarian voices, rallied in her support.

The Senior official has since been suspended from his position as a Facilitation Supervisor after widespread Pak-media fury, based on the video evidence.

The Samina Mushtaq (44 yrs) a mother of 4 children, has spoken with British Asian Christian Association  about her case as she pursues justice.  British Asian Christian Association are providing her with free advice from a solicitor and hope to commission the solicitor to take up the case if we can raise the costs for this service.

Brave and intelligent Samina Mushtaq saved her life through a quickly recorded video.

On Thursday, 5th January 2023, Samina Mushtaq a Christian woman who is head of IGC Security at  Jinnah International Airport, was threatened with a false blasphemy allegation over a parking dispute. The incident took place in Airport’s cargo area in Karachi, after a Muslim man named Saleem an official with the CAA, was reprimanded for allowing a friend’s vehicle past a security checkpoint, without a valid security pass.  Worse still the vehicle had no licence-plate.

When Mrs Mushtaq , confronted Saleem, he identified himself as a government employee. he seemed upset that she would question his authority and began issuing threats.  In a  video recording taken on Samina’s phone he can be heard shouting out that he would “call maulanas and get her charged with blasphemy for insulting Islam and the Prophet’.  This action is out-of-place and out-of-order, considering Mrs Mushtaq does not mention the Koran, Islam, Muhammad or any of his acquaintances during her challenge to Saleem’s breach of security protocol.

But it gets even worse, as the man can also be heard saying, ‘if you don’t let the car go, I will accuse you of Toheen-e- risalat blasphemy, will call many mullahs and together we will cut you into pieces.”  This is a very direct threat of extra-judicial killing based on a false allegation of blasphemy.  If Saleem had gone through this, his actions would have led to a death sentence for murder – he was lucky he did not enact the threat.

Even, then in the face of such provocation and a direct threat to her life, Mrs Mushtaq responds professionally and asks that Saleem put down in writing, that he has the authority to let cars through the security checkpoint.

Strengthened, by her recording of the stressful exchange with Saleem, Mrs Mushtaq dares him to proceed with his threat to register a blasphemy case against her.

Mrs Mushtaq at that point must have felt that the blasphemy case could not proceed in the face of such obvious evidence of her innocence. Sadly this is not the case in Pakistan, and Mrs Mushtaq could have spent  a long time in prison despite the world knowing she is innocent, while she awaited a trial date as most blasphemy offences are cognizable (legal term meaning police can arrest without warrant).  Worse still many blasphemy laws are non-bailable which means bail is not a matter of right but at discretion.

Table of relevant blasphemy laws taken from ‘On Trial: The Implementation of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws’ report, which can be read in full .

However, after her recorded video went viral on 9th January 2023 humanitarian voices, across the country began to call for action to protect Mrs Mushtaq.  In a rare move and she even had the backing of the leading Ulema Councils across the nation (body of Islamic scholars).

Allama Ziaullah Sialvi, the chairperson for the  Ulema Amn Council Pakistan (UACP), met Mrs Mushtaq. He has told Mrs Mushtaq that they will stand with her “both on the religious as well as legal grounds,”

he has offered to support Mrs Mushtaq  with any legal action taken against the CAA official, including testifying in court against his actions.  This support has meant no blasphemy allegation has been registered with local police against Mrs Mushtaq – she was saved by her quick wit and mobile phone.  Dawn News in Pakistan has confirmed the Ulema Council support (click here).

Ms Mushtaq has informed British Asian Christian Association, that Saleem was suspended from his post after an initial investigation by CAA chiefs.  However, she has been challenging for a full probe and Director General of CAA Khaqan Murtaza has already initiated the process.  She said:

I am satisfied that Ulema Councils and the CAA have supported me.

“The video evidence clearly displays Saleem’s threats to kill me and his demands that I breach security protocols and safe measures.

“I am glad that senior staff are taking this  disciplinary hearing seriously and seem like they want to get justice for me.

“This was not the first time Saleem allowed the same car to park without the driver owning a  mandatory cargo-entry pass or a vehicle parking pass.

I am meticulous with my work, Saleem had no authority to allow the vehicle and driver into a restricted area – especially a car without a number-plate

he was routinely allowing this and other cars to park in a restricted area without authority.

“I had advised all four security teams under my command to prevent this suspect car from entering, a process that was established before the incident.

“I have collected and shared all evidence with the inquiry team including the name of the driver Abdul Rehman and his address.

“It’s surprising that Saleem was able to offset the official parking restriction, especially after our airport suffered a terrorist attack in 2014 – one of the reasons why I ramped up the security protocol.”

While communicating with Juliet Chowdhry a trustee for British Asian Christian Association, in London via Facebook, Mrs Mushtaq explained her dissatisfaction with a previous inquiry process.  She added:

“I am awaiting the result of a previous enquiry after I was accidently shot in my legs by a repeater gun in July 2020, while it was being checked to see if officers could load pellets. 

“The incident happened in an office that was too small for the checking.

“I was off work for 9 days and admitted for one night to Jinnah Hospital,  to receive treatment.

Leg injuries being treated after gun misfire in CAA security office at Jinnah International Airport.

“My case against the officer who shot me is still proceeding two years later.

“In that case also, CAA did not register an FIR against the perpetrator – he was never arrested.

“I received no compensation.

“I am not happy with the investigation into that incident by Station House Officer Kaleem Musa, of Airport Police Station.

“It seems Christian’s are overlooked when it comes to justice, I hope this time justice is swifter.”

Mrs Mushtaq, has said she is receiving some threats since the incident and wishes for better protection.  BACA will be contacting the Pakistan High Commission to seek improved care for Mrs Mustaq and her family.  We intend to provide her with a solicitor who has already begun providing free advuce.  If you would like to donate towards the costs for a solicitor then please (click here).

Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, said:

It’s clear at that Saleem’s indignation came from the fact that he was being spoken to by a Christian.

He seems to feel that her faith meant she had no right to her position, and that her attempt to chastise him for corruption of a process was unwarranted.

Saleem seems to hold a pariah status for Mrs Mushtaq that knows no bounds of hatred, she was simply anathema.

He even threatened to kill her along with religious clerics – he just seems to be a grotesque human being

She added:

Saleem has threatened national safety by averting an established security protocol, permitting unlawful entry to a restricted area to an unauthorized person.

That would seem to be grounds for instant dismissal , even if we discount the fact that Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport has been subjected to a major terrorist attack in 2014 

“In threatening Mrs Mushtaq, being disobedient and preventing her from undertaking her duty, Saleem endangered the safety of many people, he has broken the law.

“Action should be taken by the Attorney of State to prosecute him.”

186.     Obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions:

Whoever voluntarily obstructs any public servant in the discharge of his public functions, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to  68[one thousand five hundred rupees] 68, or with both.

188.     Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant:

Whoever, knowing that, by an order promulgated by a public servant lawfully empowered to promulgate such order, he is directed to abstain from a certain act, or to take certain order with certain property in his possession or under his management, disobeys such direction, shall, if such disobedience causes or tends to cause obstruction, annoyance or injury or risk of obstruction, annoyance or injury, to any persons lawfully employed, be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month or with fine which may extend to  71[six hundred rupees] 71, or with both; and if such disobedience causes or tends to cause danger to human’ life, health or safety, or causes or tends to cause a riot or affray, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to  72[three thousand rupees] 72, or with both.

Explanation: It is not necessary that the offender should intend to produce harm, or contemplate his disobedience as likely to produce harm. It is sufficient that he knows of the order which he disobeys, and that his disobedience produces, or is likely to produce harm.

189.     Threat of injury to public servant:

Whoever holds out any threat of injury to any public servant, or to any person in whom he believes that public servant to be interested, for the purpose of inducing that public servant to do any act or to forbear or delay to do any act, connected with the exercise of the public functions of such public servant shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

Figures from the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) recorded that 537 persons were accused under blasphemy laws during 1986-2015, 633 (47%) were Muslims, 494 were Ahmadi (37%), 187 were Christian (14%) and 21 were Hindu (2%). Christians at the time made up 1.6% of Pakistan’s and Ahmadi’s around 0.2%.  The report did not distinguish between Shi’a and Sunni sects of Islam (click here).

It should be noted however that the Ahmadi community have been boycotting the census since  1974, to avoid persecution through identification. The UNHCR estimates that their are 4 Million Ahmadi in Pakistan a figure that would make them a larger minority than Christians (click here). At this point both minorities were facing great tribulation that was disproportionate to their demographic population.  It can also bee seen that over 50% of blasphemy allegations were being laid against minorities.

Recent data from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) indicates that an anomaly occurred during 2020 where 199 people were charged in one year of which 75% were Muslim, mostly Shi‘as (70%), followed by Ahmadis (20%), Sunnis (5%), Christians (3.5%), Hindus (1 per cent). The Ahmadis still rate higher than Christians, but both percentages have dropped significantly.  I presume that a lack of contact with Christians due to a fear they were dirty and more likely to contract COVID-19 (a known Muslim perception), and a belief that COVID-19 was a punishment for ritually impure minorities resulted in these lower figures. The figures also reflect the tensions between the Shi’a and larger majority Sunni sect.

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