The residents of Youhanabad, an impoverished settlement in Karachi, are living in a state of fear as, since past few months, Christian men have been disappearing mysteriously from this neighbourhood.
According to a report published in Herald, unknown miscreants have been abducting Christian men since March this year. The raiders arrive in unregistered vehicles, barge into homes, conduct unauthorised searches, and take away young men from the Christian-majority settlement who are later nominated in different criminal cases.
The residents here are so petrified that they have taken to assembling in the streets and reciting hymns from the Bible to seek protection from their oppressors. This has become a rather common sighting in Youhanabad, writer Bilal Karim Mughal said.
In a recent incident, 30-year-old Khurram Shahzad was abducted on May 8 and his house was raided by mysterious masked security officials who were in police uniforms, black commando t-shirts and civilian clothes.
Similar drills were exercised at a number of other houses, with as many as 14 people being taken into custody that day, reported Herald.
"They kept all of us in a room which did not look like a police station. They tortured us and pressured us into accepting that we were involved in street crimes," Shahzad said, adding that they were tortured for as many as seven days, at the end of which, every man accepted the criminal charges.
According to an FIR registered at Karachi's Shershah Police Station on May 15, Shahzad, along with Kashif Robin, who was also abducted, possessed illegal weapons. The police confiscated two 30-bore pistols and four loaded magazines from the two, the FIR stated.
Shahzad and Robin were produced before a court a few days later, which set their bail at 50,000 Pakistan Rupees. Shahzad's younger brother, working with a courier company, paid the bail amount for the former's release.
32-year-old Kaleem Maseeh, who worked as a delivery boy with a pizza restaurant, was another individual picked by the unknown miscreants on May 8.
"Four to five men came to our house. They had a man with them whose face was covered with black cloth and was working as an informant for them. Had we not opened the door for a few more minutes, they would have stormed through it. They turned our house upside down," said Kaleem's mother, Zareena.
Kaleem's FIR was also registered at the Shershah Police Station, with his crime being recorded as a mugging incident and his family paid 50,000 rupees for his release.
According to Herald, between March and May this year, as many as 24 individuals had been taken into custody by the mystery raiders.
Two weeks ago, raiders visited the settlement in a double-cabin vehicle accompanied by police vans at 3 AM. "We have not regained our peace of mind yet. Our women remain awake at night and keep a watch on the streets," community activist, Nadeem John, is quoted in the report.
In May 2018, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in Sindh constituted a committee to investigate the incidents. The probe panel interacted with a number of residents and police officers. According to their report, police officers claim they had no knowledge of the incidents.
Several inconsistencies in the police reports have also been highlighted by the HRCP. One of them is that the six and 14 men, taken into custody on April 15 and May 8 respectively, were recorded as having been arrested on April 20 and May 15.
The police, however, said that they were all arrested during patrols across the city. The Senior Superintendent of Police in Karachi West, Omar Shahid Hamid, said that the men were arrested for street crimes while denying that police conducted raids in the neighbourhood.