06/03/2024, 17.27
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Nazir Masih, Christian lynched on false blasphemy charges in Sargodha, dies

by Shafique Khokhar

The mob that attacked the victim on 25 May also set his home and business on fire. The rest of the family miraculously escaped. Doubts are being raised over the timing of his death, with some believing the government delayed the announcement to avoid international censure. Activists accuse the authorities of knowingly covering for the groups who use the law to kill indiscriminately.

Sargodha (AsiaNews) – Nazir Masih, a 72-year-old Christian man (pictured), died this morning in hospital from injuries sustained in an assault by an angry mob. Sparked by false accusations of blasphemy, his death is but another example of how the law is being used to attack innocent people and settle personal matters.

The original incident took place on 25 May in Mujahid Colony, a neighbourhood of Sargodha, capital of the district of the same name, Punjab province, when a group of people attacked and tortured the elderly man, setting fire to his home and business, and tried to beat up his son Sultan Gill and the latter’s family, who fled to escape the violence.

The circumstances and timing of his death are also proving controversial. The official announcement was made today, but some sources say that he died on the very day of the brutal attack, but was kept artificially alive with a ventilator on instructions of the government to avoid international blame.

In response to the incident, Pakistan’s Christian community is calling on the authorities to impose severe punishment on the 45 people identified among those responsible for Nazir Masih’s lynching, the torching of his home, and the destruction of his business.

The elderly Christian's death "did not only occur at the hands of a violent mob" but is also linked to the "deafening silence of our entire nation,” said writer and activist Anee Muskan, speaking to AsiaNews.

“Each of us bears responsibility because we have allowed such atrocities to occur for years,” added Anee, who also chairs Chosen Generation.

Naveed Walter, president of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP), said the state should ensure "the protection of minorities and take action against all those involved in such violations" to avoid "further dangers in the future".

For Walter, Islamic groups and extremists responsible for this kind of violence are well known to the government and the various agencies of the state, and what drives them to act.

“Some recent reports reveal that many complaints of blasphemy against Christians have been registered by the same people and groups, but no action has been taken against them" by the authorities.

Reacting to Nazir’s death, Fr Khalid Mukhtar urges Christians to remain united to “get their rights” because "we cannot bring about any positive change" divided.

The Pakistani priest explained that assailants even "stoned the ambulance that was transporting Nazir Masih to the hospital.”

“I give this government 10 days to drop the accusation of blasphemy against Nazir Masih and his family; otherwise, we will stand up united to this brutality,” he warned.

“What country is this,” he added, “where we cannot get justice even after losing our lives and possessions. We are very saddened; we only ask for peace and justice."

Ata-Ur-Rehman Saman, a human rights activist and coordinator of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, also spoke to AsiaNews.

“This morning, when news came of the death of Nazir Masih, a victim of mob violence on 25 May who died of his injuries, I was reminded of Jogindar Nath Mandal, the first Law minister and one of the leaders who created Pakistan.” In October 1950, he resigned "after incidents of killings and forced conversion of Hindus" in East Pakistan.

"The circumstances are the same today. The administration and the state are not inclined to address the issue. This attitude is continuation of the behaviour of Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan,” Saman warns.

“Jongindar Nath Mandal was fortunate enough to have the option of leaving Pakistan to live rest of his life. We don’t have the option of living, but to die for the rest of our lives.”

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