02/04/2005, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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New cases of violence and torture against Pakistani Christians

Instead of investigating, local authorities engage in cover-ups. In some cases, international organisations ignore the plight of Christians.

Lahore (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Shahbaz Masih, 22, is a Christian shopkeeper in the small village of Talwandi, Punjab province. He was violently assaulted by Ahmed Ali, a Muslim client, over a TV rental. After insulting Mr Masih for being Christian, the client attacked him with a butcher's axe and chopped off his left arm.

The young shopkeeper was taken to Allied Hospital in Faisalabad and discharged four days later but had to close his shop flee the village with his mother.

Mr Masih's parish priest in Chak Jhumra, a village not far from Talwandi informed Mgr Joseph Coutts, Catholic Bishop of Faisalbad, of what happened. Bishop Coutts sent a delegation that included an attorney, Khalil Tahrir, to file a complaint with the local police against the assailant.

Mr Ahmed Ali was arrested and is currently in Central Jail in Faisalbad. However, local police are under heavy pressure to whitewash the case and free him

Pakistan Christian Post reports another incident involving a 55-year-old Christian mother, Hanifan Bibi, who was abducted along with her family, sexually assaulted and tortured in front of her husband and sons.

In this incident as well, the attackers are said to be protected by local authorities and people in high places, i.e. Muslim members of the Punjab Legislative Assembly.

Given the nature and the frequency of such attacks, many Pakistani Christians complain that their plight has received scant coverage by foreign media.

A case in point is this year's annual report by Human Rights Watch which totally ignores the discriminations inflicted upon religious minorities in Pakistan.

In the report's section on freedom of worship the human rights NGO does not refer to the brutal murders of Nasir Masih, Samuel Masih and Javed Anjum, killed only because they were Christians.

Accused of blasphemy, Nasir Masih and Samuel Masih died from police torture.  Javed Anjum was slaughtered by students and teachers in a madrassah.

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