Pakistani police officials are denying that Nouman Masih, the 15-year-old Lahore Christian boy who died last week after being burned for his faith, ever provided testimony indicating that he was attacked by two Muslim men, even though legal advocates can attest to the fact that he did provide police with such a statement.
According to the Pakistani news website Dawn.com, police in Lahore are saying that they never recorded a statement from Masih on how he suffered substantial burn wounds that covered 55 percent of his entire body, which ultimately led to his death five days later.
Acting Deputy Inspector General Rana Ayaz Saleem, head of the Lahore Police Investigation Department, told Dawn that no statement from Masih was ever recorded, and added that no religious motive in the attack was yet determined, even though Masih reiterated multiple times before his death that he was attacked for his faith.
"No dying declaration/statement was recorded by police due to the life-threatening condition of the boy," Saleem stated.
As The Christian Post reported previously, prominent Pakistani human rights lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill was in the room with Masih during the time that he provided a police officer with his testimony.
Gill explained in an interview with CP last Wednesday that Masih explicitly told a police officer that he was on his way to the tailoring shop where he was an apprentice when he was approached by two Muslim men who were on their way to Muslim prayers.
The two men stopped Masih and asked him if he was a Christian or Muslim. When the boy answered that he was a Christian, the men attacked him, chased him down and set him on fire.
"When he was on his way, two unknown men stopped him and inquired: 'What is your religion? Are you Christian or Muslim?' When he said, 'I am Christian,' they beat him and he tried to save himself. Unfortunately, they chased him and then catch him and get kerosene all on him and set on fire," Gill explained.
"This is the incident and these are all the facts. He, himself, told this to senior police officer and a number of people recorded his statement and I also heard the same words from his mouth."
Gill was not the only lawyer in the room with Masih when he gave his testimony to the police officer. Attorney Aneeqa Maria Akhtar from The Voice Society told Morningstar News that she was also in the room when Masih told the officer that he was attacked by Muslim men for his faith.
Akhtar added that when people wanted to speak with Masih, they were supervised and not allowed to ask Masih who burned him.
"This is the first time I have seen secret agencies 'guarding' a burn victim," she said. "They were keeping record of all people who were coming to visit the child. Whenever I tried approaching him, a person in civilian dress would stand next to the bed. They said they were just doing their job."
As tensions between the Christian and Muslim communities in Lahore continue to escalate — following the Youhanabad lynchings of two Muslim men who were thought to be involved in the March 15 bombing of two churches — Pakistani media have reported the baseless claim that Masih was burned by his own Christian uncle. The Pakistani media's claim is contrary to the fact that Masih stated that he did not recognize his attackers.
Masih's 22-year-old sister, Saba Masih, decried the claim that their paternal uncle, Nadeem Masih, set Nouman on fire in an interview with Morningstar News. She added that her uncle loved her and her brother as if they were his own children.
"Uncle Nadeem and his wife raised us just like their own children," she said. "It was only after this incident that most of our neighbors had come to know that they weren't our real parents."
Saba Masih further explained that her uncle was first accused by her mother and maternal grandfather as a ploy to seize the property and pension of their dead father.
Gill also told CP that the claims that Masih's uncle set him on fire are completely false.
"They say that there is a dispute with his uncle from maternal side family because Nouman's father died two or three years before and his mother got married with someone other. But now, Pakistani media is saying that it might be his uncle set him on fire, which is totally false and wrong," Gill asserted. "Why would his uncle, who is his guardian, who look after his two children do something [this horrible]?"
Nouman also provided his testimony in a video interview with a British Pakistani Christian Association officer. Masih's testimony can be seen and a translation can be read, as the video of the BPCA interview was posted to YouTube by BPCA Chairman Wilson Chowdhry last week.
"I was travelling to overlook some shirts at the stitching shop and on my way back two boys surrounded me on bikes and stopped me. One was wearing shalwar kameez and the other was wearing western trousers and a shirt. I was hurrying to the shop as the Master Tailor told me to come back quickly. Both the motorcyclists had their faces covered. They started abusing and asked me who I was and where I was going during the Muslim prayer time?" Masih explained in the BPCA interview. "I said I am Christian and they abused me further. They slapped me four times on my face then one of them threw kerosene oil over me and the other threw a match stick at me. They then rode away. There were heaps of sand nearby and I lay on them to put the fire out."