Suspects in the torture-induced death of a Catholic in Pakistan evade prosecution.

Suspects in the torture-induced death of a Catholic in Pakistan evade

Police in Lahore, Pakistan, are neglecting to arrest individuals who are intimidating the victim’s relatives to provide false testimonies regarding the death of a Catholic man at the hands of his Muslim employers.

Sonia Shahid, the widow of 35-year-old Shahid Masih and mother to their six children, said her husband’s employers tortured him on May 8, resulting in his death ten days later, because they wrongly suspected he had stolen goats from their farm in the Bhikkhi area of Sheikhupura District, Punjab Province.

Following the theft of 12 goats on April 7-8 and unsuccessful police investigations, the farm owners blamed Shahid Masish and another Christian employee, Faryad Masih, for the incident. On May 8, they asked police to take Faryad Masih into custody, Sonia Shahid said.

She said that on that day, she was working inside her servants’ quarters on the farm of Rana Nazar and his brothers when she heard her husband’s screams and cries.

“When I came to my quarter to check, I was horrified to see at least seven men armed with weapons, including Rana Nazar, Rana Ejaz, Rana Ramzan, Rana Aftab, and three others beating Masih with batons,” Sonia Shahid told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News.

“My husband kept pleading his innocence, but they dragged him to their outhouse, where they tied him up and continued to torture him. They broke his teeth and fingers and then poured a bottle of acid into his mouth. When I tried to stop them, they beat me as well as our children, who had followed me there.”

The assailants stopped torturing Shahid when they saw his condition deteriorating, she said.

“I begged them to take him to the hospital, but they refused and left him there,” she said.

She and other family members took him to a local government trauma center, but doctors there advised them to take him to Lahore because of his critical condition. They took him in a taxi to the Mayo Hospital in Lahore, but no ambulance was available.

“When the doctors there examined Masih, they told us that the acid had caused massive damage to his internal organs, and the nature of his injuries was also severe,” Sonia Shahid said. “We could only plead with them to do their best and save his life, but Masih couldn’t survive and died after ten days, on May 18.”

Their attorney, Kashif Naimat, said the suspects had evaded arrest by taking captive, threatening, and pressuring Sonia Shahid’s relatives.

“The accused detained Sonia’s father, Munir Masih, another brother, Saqib, and nephew Shahzad in their custody and pressured them to tell police that they [the Muslim employers] had not murdered Masih,” Naimat told Christian Daily International-Morning Star News. “The latter three were in the fields when the incident happened, but they succumbed to the threats and pressure when the accused offered to waive off their loans and also gave them other monetary incentives.”

He added that the suspects have also used Sonia Shahid’s father to offer her money to withdraw the case.

“Sonia’s father told her that the Rana brothers were ready to give the family 3.5 million Pakistani rupees [US$12,526] as compensation if she withdraws the case against them,” Naimat said. “However, Sonia and her husband’s family have rejected the offer.”

He said that Sonia Shahid had stated in a First Information Report registered on May 19 that the suspects were holding her family members hostage at that time to prevent her from registering a murder case against them.

Sonia Shahid, her brother Naveed Masih, and her sister’s husband Farrukh Naeem are three eyewitnesses of the assault, and they are standing by their testimonies, he said.

“We have held several meetings with senior police officials and urged them to arrest the accused and interrogate them considering the statements recorded by the eyewitnesses,” Naimat said. “However, the false testimonies recorded by Sonia’s three relatives have given the local police an opportunity to protect the accused landlords.”

The attorney said it would be a grave miscarriage of justice if the influential suspects could get away with the murder of a poor Christian laborer.

“It’s not uncommon for powerful people to use their money and influence to protect themselves from prosecution, nor is it uncommon for the weak to surrender to pressure and threats,” he said.

The police are responsible for protecting the vulnerable from manipulation by powerful defendants and ensuring justice is based on merit.

The grieving widow said her husband was the sole breadwinner for the family and that they depended now on her elderly father-in-law, Rafaqat Masih, who earns 400–500 rupees (less than US$2) per day working as a daily wage laborer.

“I appeal to the government and senior police officials to give us justice,” she said. “None of the accused has been arrested despite registering a case. They are offering us financial compensation, but we want justice only.”

Her husband was an honest man, and the family did not want his tragic death to go in vain, she said.

“I also appeal to my Christian brothers and sisters to help us, as we have no financial resources and are facing an enormous challenge in meeting both ends,” she said.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2024 World Watch List of the most challenging places to be a Christian, as it was the previous year.


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