Woh larka kis kamray mai hai jo building se gira hai? (Which room is the boy who fell down from a building in?)
The Prisoner? Voh seedhay haath walay kamray mai hai (He is in the room on the right.)
Not a witness, a suspect or even an accused but he is already and only referred to as a prisoner. His fate is decided. There is also a murmur or two about the man who does not deserve to live in the accidents ward.
Sajid Masih’s broken body, alert eyes and fighting spirit is shifted between an ICU in a busy ward and a less busy floor with a few policemen sitting in the corridor. One officer who guards his room from the inside on the less-busy floor is armed.
Doctors have no definitive answers about his surgery or internal and visible injuries. A guarded, we cannot say anything, is the only sure response.
His jaw is dislocated, he could barely utter a word. It is almost like, with his gentle nods, he is reassuring the visitors who are there to wish him strength, while fighting for his life to live in a country where he or his community are not allowed even an iota of dignity
His immunity is good, because he was not an addict, a sympathetic voice says. But it seems like nobody is listening. Is there anyone interested in keeping him alive?
The severity and number of his wounds is confidential information because this case is high profile. He might be from the class which has no privileges at all, but he and his teen cousin are high level threats to the faith of the country’s majority. This powerless man was such a deviant that he deserved to be treated with brutality. Allegedly tortured and sexually harassed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officers, Sajid and his blasphemy accused cousin Patras of Shahdara were not even considered human by them.
Stench of sickness and working bodies, broken limbs, hastily applied bloodied bandages, tattered clothes, Punjabi-wailing for the dead, a group of Pathan labourers with their unconscious fellow in a hired four wheeler, gurneys, wheelchairs and ambulances flashing in and out — there is a certainty to the hostile commotion of a government hospital’s emergency and accidents section.
A number of benches in the attendants’ waiting area are occupied by relatives and neighbours of Sajid.
Boys from his neighbourhood with A+ blood group are there to donate blood in case there is a surgery. They had all fled their homes with their families for at least a day or two when Sajid’s cousin Patras Masih was accused of blasphemy on Facebook. We did not know much, but we left because we remember what happened in Gojra — humain yaad hai k Gojra mai kya hua tha — one said. Sajid’s immediate family cannot go back to their neighbourhood.
Saaday tin kaar ne, assi saray dar-badar ho gaye aan (we are three families and we are all homeless now as we cannot return) says Abid Masih, Sajid’s father.
Fact finders from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Sajid’s counsel and other activists from the community are everywhere. A Christian cable network correspondent comes every day to do live updates. Reverend Arif, a soft spoken man, has tried to visit every day to stand by Sajid’s bed and pray for him.
Sajid was again shifted back to the busy ward perhaps because moving him around in the hospital displayed the patient being attended to. But this activity did not result in any of the necessary surgeries. A few of his medical tests were finally conducted. And yet nobody knows what is going on behind the inaccessible closed doors of the big hospital. The secrecy is due to the threat he faces — an official’s reluctant response. But does anyone care if a janitor, son of a janitor, cousin of a janitor, low-birth from the wrong religion lives or dies?
On the busy floor’s relatively private section of a bustling ward, with curtains serving as a door, Sajid is awake. He is blessed by someone visiting him — we will fast for you brother, he is reassured. Meanwhile, the armed policeman inside this private section makes sure there are no cameras with the visitors. I am offered a place to sit on one of the beds where his attendant is sitting — we are all rooting for you, we are with you. Sajid is alert, responding to the messages from the outside by moving eyelids and slight nods. His jaw is dislocated, he could barely utter a word. It is almost like, with his gentle nods, he is reassuring the visitors who are there to wish him strength, while fighting for his life to live in a country where he or his community are not allowed even an iota of dignity.
Rights activists have been at the hospital all day. A few leave for the Shahdara police station to gather more facts. Reverend Arif is stopped by a woman pushing her husband in a wheelchair to bless him. One of Sajid’s aunts, with a plate of rice and daal, offers us early dinner, tussie khana khaogey? (would you like some food?)
The writer is an independent journalist and researcher, working on gender, human rights and online extremist expression. She tweets @Rabail26
Published in Daily Times, March 1st 2018.