|LAHORE, Pakistan (BP) -- Police resisted intense pressure from Islamist protestors in Pakistan and released in February without charges a Christian educator falsely accused of desecrating the Quran.
Muslim teachers at the Lahore-area City Foundation School accused school principal Saira Khokhar of desecrating a quranic scripture booklet on Feb. 22.
Sources told Compass Direct News that police refused to bow to pressure from Islamists clamoring outside the school for registration of a case against Khokhar under Section 295-B of Pakistan's widely condemned "blasphemy" laws. In other accusations against Christians in Pakistan, sources said, police often file charges without proper investigation to quell pressure from accusers.
When Khokhar joined the school in 2009 as the only Christian amid a 14-member faculty, she told Compass sources that one teacher resigned in protest, further predisposing other teachers against her. The only other Christian employee of the school is a security guard.
In the February incident, police sustained injuries from irate Islamists in rescuing Khokhar from the mob. Police superintendent Imtiaz Sarwar subsequently told Compass that after a thorough investigation he concluded that school staff members had falsely accused her.
"The minute I interviewed the staff members, I knew that the charge against Saira was completely fabricated," Sarwar said.
Sarwar commended his officers for putting their lives at risk while rescuing the school principal from the mob that was demanding she be handed over to them for "swift justice."
"Such an attitude cannot be allowed under any circumstances," Sarwar said. "No one should dare take the law into their hands. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty."
The police superintendent acknowledged that in most blasphemy cases not all suspects were as fortunate as Khokhar.
"Such cases are extremely sensitive," Sarwar said. "The police had to face the severe reaction by the majority and at the same time secure the suspect. It's regretful that in most cases officials have not been able to face the pressure."
A school cleaner alleged that Khokhar had deliberately thrown a "Surrah-e-Yaseen" booklet into a dustbin while clearing the cupboards of her office. Upon hearing this accusation, some Muslim teachers rushed up to the principal and demanded an apology.
"I told my teachers that I didn't even know that the booklet was there, as the maid was helping me clean the cupboards," Khokhar told sources at the police station. "She should have brought the booklet to my notice right then, but she deliberately took the dustbin to the staff room and instigated the teachers." Continued...