*Representative photo used to protect identity
Adnan Prince’s ordeal began on October 7 when he was filling-in for his brother at the Diamond Glass shop in Lahore. During his shift, Prince, who holds a Master’s degree in English Literature, says he found a copy of a controversial book, I asked the Bible why the Qur’ans were set on fire (Mein ney Bible sey poocha Qur’an kyun jaley in Urdu), and started to read it, making notes inside as he read.
The book was written by Maulana Ameer Hamza, leader of Jamat-ud-Dawa, a political arm of the jihadi organization Lashkar-e-Taiba that claimed responsibility for the 2008 Mumbai bombings.
While Prince was reading, a Muslim colleague of his, Abid Mehmood, spotted him and took offence with the notes he was making in the book. The next day, Mehmood went to the local police station and alleged that Prince had “marked several pages … with abusive words against the Prophet of Islam.”
Upon hearing that he had been accused, Prince fled the area. He claims, however, that he did nothing wrong. “I found the book quite erroneous, giving incorrect information about Christianity,” he said. “So I wrote comments with Biblical references in several places, but no abusive language was used.”
After Prince fled, his brother, mother, aunt and uncle were arrested and told they would not be released until he returned. When he was informed that his family members had been arrested, Prince returned home on November 6.
At the police station, Prince said he was told to keep it quiet that he had been arrested on blasphemy charges for fear of attacks by other prisoners. But he also said that police tortured him at night.
“The police were on the verge of killing me after I surrendered to them, but God kept me safe by His grace,” he said. “When I came to my senses [after one round of torture], I was told that a heavy machine would be rolled over my thighs. Then the deputy superintendent of police pushed the barrel of a pistol into my mouth and told me to confess that I had written abusive words in the book. He said he would count to three and that if I didn’t confess, he would pull the trigger.”
Prince added that on one occasion he was taken outside and told that he was free to go. “But I knew they were lying and would shoot me from behind if I left,” he said. “I told them that if you want to shoot me, then shoot me in the chest and not in the back. They stopped torturing me when they felt they would not be able to shake my resolve.”
Prince’s lawyer Aneeqa Maria, Director of The Voice Society, told World Watch Monitor that the police were legally bound to present him before a court within 24 hours after his first arrest, but they did not do so for fear of starting a riot.
“Every day dozens of bearded men crowded the courtroom where Adnan was to be presented, so the police kept lingering on,” she said. “After his surrender, a police officer told me about the pressure the police had on them from the Jamat-ud-Dawa who wanted to take law and order into their own hands.”
Prince was finally brought before the court after three days; he was then transferred to Lahore District Jail, where he is confined to a small cell on his own. He said that he was being kept away from other prisoners for his protection.
He is still awaiting trial. In the meantime, there is a petition for him to be released on bail. Similar cases have been known to take as long as seven years to reach trial in Pakistan, the most famous on-going “blasphemy charge” case being that of Aasiya Noreen (also known as Asia Bibi), who was sentenced to death for insulting Islam in 2009 and currently remains in jail, awaiting her appeal.
Before Prince turned himself in to the police, a Christian colony in Wassanpura, Lahore, near Prince’s home, received a letter saying, “Every Christian household in this area is being told to immediately vacate their houses. This time you are verbally warned, but the next time you will be burned and killed.” The letter was signed by Ashiqaan-Rusool (Devotees of the Apostle), one of four Islamist groups in the area.
One of the Christians in the colony, Javed Masih, lodged a complaint with the local police. “After Adnan and his family had fled from their houses, these extremists were looking for an excuse to attack us,” he said. “For this reason about 12 families fled, while several other families sent their women to their relatives for fear of an attack from the Muslims.”
Police stationed guards outside the colony for a week, and then left. Following this, Masih submitted a petition to the court for continued protection. On November 25, the judge ordered the police to “readdress the grievance.”
Father, thank You for Your watchful care over Prince and for the testimony of his courage in turning himself over to the authorities, in order to protect his family. We pray Your continued care over him and over the Christians in Wassanpura and other parts of Lahore. We pray that Prince would be found innocent of the false charges and released from prison. We pray that Your gospel would move across the country of Pakistan in great power and raise up a mighty legion to worship and serve You. In the name of Jesus who is establishing His church in Pakistan and in all the nations of the world, Amen.