10/06/2011, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Armed group kills Christian over disputed land in Punjab

Jibran Khan
Last night, Safdar Masih was shot to death; others, including children, were injured. The local Church had bought some land to build an orphanage, but the local land mafia laid claim to it. Police refuses to open an investigation into the affair.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – Safdar Masih, a Pakistani Christian living in Mian Channu, a town in Khanewal District (Punjab), was murdered Wednesday night over a land dispute. A dozen people were injured. According to sources, a local Church had bought the land to build an orphanage, but an influential local feudal lord, Muhammad Ali Durrani, tried to claim the land.

Local residents say the rich Muslim backs the land mafia and tried to take the land bought by the Church. On Monday, local residents submitted an application at the local police station against Durrani and his associates, but police tried to pressure them and threatened them to withdraw their complaint.

On Wednesday, arriving by car, armed men attacked locals, murdered Safdar Masih, and injured over a dozen other residents including children. They also took over the land. Police did not register a First Information Report (FIR) about the anti-Christian attack.

The Catholic Church in Khanewal has condemned the latest incident and called for immediate action.

“We strongly condemn this murder,” Fr Ilyas John from Khanewal said. “This is not the first incident of land grabbing in the district,” he told AsiaNews. “Influential feudals target the weak and the vulnerable.”

The local Church does not have a big congregation but bought the land to build an orphanage. However, it should have given greater consideration to the organizational capacity needed in taking such a step because “the land mafia in this region is very strong and they keep an eye on such projects as they are an easy catch,” the clergyman explained.
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