Faisalabad, subjected to slave labour and murdered: the drama of a Christian elderly man
The victim is 62-year-old Boota Masih, forced to work on a cattle farm to repay his son's debts. The murderer is the owner of the farm, a Muslim who is also a police officer. He used his role as an officer to cover up the investigation. The corpse showed clear signs of abuse and violence.
Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - A new case of brutal violence against minorities and justice denied comes from Pakistan, in a story that encapsulates all the distortions, abuses and abuse in a nation where non-Muslims struggle to assert their rights. Even in the case of a murder, the contours of which are clear, but weeks later the police - either because the main suspect is also a police officer - have done nothing to arrest those responsible.
The victim is 62-year-old Christian Boota Masih (pictured) and the brutal murder took place on 26 August in Chak 226RB, a district of Faisalabad, Punjab. Since July, the man had been replacing his son Sohail in a cattle farm owned by Muslim Fakhar Cheema, as the young man had abruptly run away, leaving unpaid a portion of money he had previously received from his employer. The farmer - and police officer - thought of retaliating against the parent, according to the principle of 'bonded labour' and better known as 'debt bondage'.
Fakhar Cheema and Shaan Cheema forcibly took and forced the parent to work on the farm, subjecting him to harassment and abuse for weeks. On 23 August, two other sons of the Christian elder Rafaqat Masih and Ashfaq Masih tried to meet their father and bring him home, in vain. However, the two were able to see with their own eyes the man's extreme physical and psychological suffering.
Hence the attempt to mediate the release of the parent, but at Rafaqat and Ashfaq's request, the employer Fakhar Cheema flatly refused, accompanied by further threats. Three days later, the sons received a phone call from the police station in Saddar, informing them that their father's corpse had been found near the farm, in a condition described as 'miserable' and abandoned for more than 24 hours in a cultivated field. When the two brothers recognised their elderly parent's body, they were 'shocked' by the signs of violence and abuse in several places.
The police have opened a file against the Muslim farming family for multiple counts, but so far the investigation is at a standstill due in part to pressure from the main suspect on his colleagues. Hence the decision of one of the victim's relatives - whose family has been subjected to repeated death threats - to appeal to Voice of Pakistan, an NGO that also defends minority rights, in an attempt to obtain justice that has so far been denied. Zohaib Newton, executive director of the organisation, confirms the background of the case and speaks of a 'brutal murder' that is a further example 'of the violation of minority rights in Pakistan'.
"These modern day slaves," he adds, "are in miserable conditions and are abused by landowners. However, when it comes to minorities the vulnerability doubles' and therefore 'the government should intervene' by countering the phenomenon.