September 8, 2004 (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) --- Another Christian has died in Pakistan as a result of severe torture at the hands of the police. This is the third murder of a Pakistani Christian this year, and the second carried out by the police.
Nasir Masih, aged 26, was arrested on false charges of theft on August 16, and died three days later after sustaining 20 injuries. According to his father, Mukhtar Masih, Nasir was taken from his home in Baldia, Siekhupura, 45 kilometres from Lahore, by a group of Muslims, and a few hours later his family was informed by the police that he had been arrested and charged with theft. The accusation had been made by one of the group which took Nasir from his home.
"This is a conspiracy based on religious enmity to kill my son," Mukhtar Masih told the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance. "My son cannot have been involved in any theft."
A case has been registered against ten people, including six policemen, for allegedly torturing Nasir Masih to death, on the orders of the District Police Officer Shahid Iqbal. No arrests have yet been made. "I will knock on every door to get justice for my son," Mukhtar Masih said.
Nasir's murder follows the deaths in May this year of Samuel Masih and Javed Anjum. Samuel Masih, charged under the blasphemy law, was beaten by a police officer while he lay in a hospital suffering from tuberculosis. Javed Anjum was tortured to death by Muslims from a madrassah (Islamic school).
Hundreds of Christians protested at Nasir Masih's murder by blocking the Siekhupura to Lahore road on August 20. Police responded to the protest with a baton charge and firing in the air, which led to several protestors being injured. Police beat up and arrested Pastor Joel Raja and Pastor Noel Cecil, who were preparing to lead Nasir Masih's funeral, along with 15 others. The two pastors and five others have been released, but ten further people remain in police custody. Police have also warned the local Christian community, particularly Haroon Fateh, a lawyer representing Nasih Masih's family, not to pursue the case against the police. About a dozen Christian protestors have been charged with suspending traffic and rioting.
CSW is calling for the repeal of the blasphemy laws and the Hudood Ordinances, and for the reform of the madrassahs.
Stuart Windsor, National Director of CSW, said: "This tragedy is a result of unacceptable police brutality, and the perpetrators of this crime should be brought to justice. Although Nasir Masih was not charged under the blasphemy laws, his death is evidence of increased extremist violence against Christians in Pakistan. Such violence is fostered by the blasphemy laws and the extremist teachings of many madrassahs."
For further information please contact Richard Chilvers, Communications Manager at CSW UK, on 0208 329 0045 or email: Richard.Chilvers@csw.org.uk, or search CSW's website at www.csw.org.uk
Christian Solidarity Worldwide is a human rights charity working on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs. We also promote religious liberty for all.