03/02/2020, 14.17
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Punjab: Christian family demands justice for their son, slain because he was ‘impure’

by Shafique Khokhar

The young man was killed by Muslim fanatics for “soiling” the water of a tube-well pool. Released from custody, the suspects are threatening to treat other Christians in the village the same way. The victim was tortured with electric cables and a heated rod. Family and friends accuse the police of covering up for the culprits.

Kasur (AsiaNews) – "We are shocked, but we want justice for Saleem,” said an aggrieved Ghafoor Masih, father of the 22-year-old Christian man brutally murdered by a group of Islamic fanatics in Bhagyana, a village in Kasur district (Pakistani Punjab) because he was an “untouchable”.

Saleem died last Friday (28 February) in a Lahore hospital after three agonising days. The young man was attacked whilst taking a bath in a tube-well pool belonging to an influential local Muslim landlord. For his killers, he "soiled" the pool’s water.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Ghafoor said that the entire local community, including Muslim neighbours, condemn his son’s barbaric murder. Many now demand that the murderers be given the same treatment as Saleem. About 150-200 Christians live in Bhagyana.

Waris Masih, a close friend of the victim, describes him as a good young man and the family’s breadwinner. “Saleem never did anything that would annoy others. All of us will remain close to his loved ones and we will fight for the guilty to pay for what they did.”

Two people were initially arrested in connection with the murder but were immediately released on bail. One of them later stated that any Christian who dared to return to their land would end up like Saleem.

The victim’s family accuses the police of doing nothing to solve the case and of taking sides with the landowner and his accomplices.

Ghafoor says his son had just finished working in the fields when he was pulled out of the pool and dragged to a nearby farm. There, he was chained and hit several times. He was tortured with electric cables and a heated iron rod. Even his private parts were not spared. Eventually, he was dumped in a field, half-dead.

Found by passers-by and taken to the hospital by the family, Saleem died of multiple fractures as well as liver and kidney damage. At his funeral, last Saturday, the Provincial Minister of Human Rights and Minorities Affairs, Ijaz Aalam, said that justice will be done.

Nadeem Anthony, a human rights lawyer in contact with the victim's family, said that brutal murder is the latest in a series of violent acts against Christians.

Religious intolerance and hatred fuel fanaticism, he explained, but the authorities do little or nothing to counter them, going so far as to deny discriminatory practices.

Given the seriousness of the facts, the activist calls for the intervention of the highest Pakistani judicial authorities.

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