ASIA/PAKISTAN - After mass violence in Sargodha: Christian dies of serious injuries

Monday, 3 June 2024 blasphemy   religious minorities  

Rawalpindi (Agenzia Fides) - Nazir Masih, 72, a Christian who was attacked and beaten by a mob on May 25 in Sargodha, a city in the Pakistani province of Punjab, died today, June 3, in Rawalpindi Hospital. He had been accused of alleged "blasphemy". According to the hospital, the man died as a result of the injuries and wounds he sustained, including to his head. The man had been wrongly accused of desecrating the Koran in the "Mujahid" colony in Sargodha (see Fides, 27/5/2024). A crowd armed with sticks, stones and other weapons had gathered in front of the house of Nazir Masih, the owner of a small shoe factory in the area, to punish him. Thanks to the intervention of the police, he was saved from being lynched, but was still seriously injured and was taken to the local hospital, then to Rawalpindi Hospital for treatment and surgery, where his condition was critical. Today he succumbed to his injuries. Catholic lawyer Khali Tahir Sandhu, Senator of Punjab and Minister for Human Rights in the provincial government, told Fides: "We heard the news with heavy hearts and deep sadness. His death is a devastating loss that weighs heavily on our hearts and testifies to the senseless violence that ultimately caused his death. He was a valued member of our community and his untimely death leaves a void. We express our deepest condolences to his family and all who knew and loved him". Minister Sandhu added: "The Christian community and other religious minorities are wondering when this brutality in Pakistan will end. We ask for justice and peace and jointly condemn all forms of violence and discrimination. We hope that all people of goodwill will join us and support us in demanding justice for the victims and making an example of this case to punish the perpetrators and stop the extremists." The grave incident in Sargodha - which lawyer Sandhu had described as "mobocracy" - had sparked protests and a wave of outrage in Pakistan and across the world, especially because the blasphemy allegations were proven to be baseless and had highlighted the misuse of the law against religious minorities and Christians in particular. In Pakistan, demonstrations have taken place in several cities such as Peshawar and Karachi in recent days, demanding a verdict on the incident and a transparent government investigation and legal action against those who made false allegations. The Council of Islamic Ideology, chaired by Raghib Hussain Naimi, also called on the special courts to investigate the Sargodha incident to punish those who committed heinous crimes, stressing the urgent need to prevent mob violence. It called the attacks "despicable" and "un-Islamic" and demanded that the perpetrators (the police arrested a total of 44 people in connection with the incident) be brought to justice. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 3/6/2024)