“Local police officers ‘acted like spectators’”
“Killers Claimed Christian “Polluted” the Muslims’ Water“
A Pakistani Christian man was severely tortured and beaten to death in Pakistan’s Punjab province by men who accused him of “contaminating” water in a well owned by a Muslim farmer.
Saleem Masih, a 22-year-old in the city of Kasur in Pakistan’s Punjab province, was tortured to death for taking a dip in a village tube well in Pakistan, his fault was that he was a Christian.
Sources told human rights organizations that Christian laborer Saleem was chained, dragged, and beaten with rods by a landowner and four other men around Feb. 25.
“On Feb 25, Saleem had finished unloading chaff in fields in Baguyana village and was rinsing himself off in the tube-well when a group of men, including Sher Dogar, Iqbal, Altaf, Jabbar and Haji Muhammad rushed over, yanked him out of the water and began beating him,” Saleem’s father Ghafoor Masih said, according to a report by Pakistan Today, an English-language daily in the country..
“They cursed and abused Saleem for ‘polluting’ the water, calling him a ‘filthy Christian,’” Masih claimed, adding that the assailants then dragged the youth to their cattle farm, where they chained his hands and feet and continued to torture him with sticks and rods. “They also rolled a thick iron rod over Saleem’s entire body, causing multiple fractures and internal injuries.”
Ghafoor said that the family was informed about the incident by police officials four hours after his son was taken hostage and tortured.
“When we reached the cattle farm, we found Saleem lying unconscious on the ground, his face and body bloodied.” According to Dogar and the other men, Saleem had “committed a crime by dirtying” their well water and that his punishment was “justified”, he added.
Masih said that after much pleading, the family was allowed to take Saleem to the hospital while the police acted like spectators.
Three days after the attack, on February 28, Saleem succumbed to his injuries and died at Lahore General Hospital due to the severity of his injuries.
Masih’s older brother told the Union of Catholic Asia News that Masih was tortured for two hours for washing himself off in a tube well owned by a Muslim landowner who has been identified as Sher Doga.
“We have to take a bath after unloading husk from a trolley. Even the cold weather doesn’t matter. The itching from chaff, stuck in our clothes, disturbs our sleep,” Nadeem Masih was quoted as saying.
“They threatened him with dire consequences when he cleaned himself after unloading a vehicle last week. They accused him of desecrating their water. He was already being warned about making TikTok videos in farms belonging to Muslim landlords.”
Masih was discovered lying in Doga’s cattle farm with serious injuries on Feb. 25 in Bhagiana village, where many Christians work as farm laborers.
Nadeem Masih said local women informed him that they heard Masih moaning in pain around 7 a.m.
“He told the police about being chained, beaten and electrocuted by four men,” Nadeem Masih said. “They rolled a thick iron rod over his entire body. He was like a crushed sugar cane from a juice machine.”
Although Masih was taken to a hospital for surgery, he died from organ failure.
According to UCANews, Doga was arrested but later released. The high court in Lahore accepted a bail petition from the suspects who accused the Masih of stealing.
CLAAS Director Nasir Sayeed said in a press release that Doga summoned the police himself. Sayeed accused Doga of bribing police since police pressed Masih’s family to settle the matter.
According to Sayeed, Doga justified the crime by saying that Masih “committed a crime by dirtying” the well water.
“The Masih family had to plead with the landowner to free Saleem Masih so they could take him to a hospital for medical treatment,” Sayeed reported.
Ghafoor Masih told CLAAS that he wants justice for his son.
“Those who have killed my son must be punished for taking the law into their own hands and killing him for nothing but for being Christian,” Ghafoor Masih was quoted as saying.
According to Sayeed, it will not be easy to get justice for Masih because the “perpetrators are so influential.”
Another incident from #Kasur:— عینی (@ainee_2010) February 29, 2020
A Christian labourer, Saleem Masih was brutally tortured to death by local landowners in Chunian, Kasur on Feb 25 on accusations that he had ‘polluted’ their tube-well water by bathing in it. Spread the word to demand #JusticeForSaleemMasih. pic.twitter.com/N1JrB9Gzh2
“The Pakistani police is often biased when it comes to the matter Muslims and non-Muslims,” Sayeed said.
Michelle Chaudhry, president of the Cecil and Iris Chaudhry Foundation, said in a statement that the “horrific act of violence is once again a grim reminder that intolerance in the name of religion in Pakistan has escalated beyond the rule of law.”
“Unfortunately, in Pakistan, when it comes to the religious minorities anyone is free to act as a prosecutor, judge and executor,” Chaudhry explained. “We cannot allow this to go on; impunity around violence against religious minorities in Pakistan has to end.”
Pakistan is ranked as the fifth-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List. Christians have often been victimized by societal persecution in the predominantly Muslim country.