Thursday June 20, 2024

Brutal death

By Editorial Board
March 06, 2020

Kasur was once known as a city of beauty, home to Sufi poet and philosopher Bulleh Shah. It has since converted into a place of repeated ugliness. In 2015, we had the child pornography case reported from there. The rape and death of seven-year-old Zainab in January 2018 shook the country and there have been other reported cases of sexual assault on children and other kinds of violence directed against minorities in the area. We now have another, particularly horrendous case. Late last month, Saleem Masih, a 22-year-old Christian who along with his seven brothers earned his living as a labourer, collecting cut crops from fields, was violently beaten at a village in Chunian. He was rushed to hospital by his distraught relatives, told he could only be treated at general hospital in Lahore, taken there only to find no bed was available and then declared dead a day after admission as doctors finally began to treat the young man who had been brutally beaten around the head and according to his father and brothers been tortured with a heavy iron rod rolled over his body.

The reasons for the assault – with an FIR lodged by the police now converted into a case of murder under Section 302 of the PPC – are not defined in this document. Local Christians also say the police have consistently been siding with the perpetrators. There are two accounts. Saleem and his family hold that after completing the arduous task of loading chaff onto a tractor trolley, the young man wished to bathe in the local tubewell water. He did so, though some accounts suggest he was asked not to by locals in the area. They claim his action polluted their water. There is another account coming from the landowner in the village, who says that Saleem was stealing turmeric from their field. But even if this was the case, there should have been no reason to torture him so violently. Simply handing him over to police should have been sufficient.

The case needs to be properly investigated. The fact that Punjab Minister for Minorities Ijaz Masih visited the house of the family is the only reason we have heard about the events which unfolded some days ago. The reluctance of police to save the young man and allegations that they simply looked on as he was being beaten are disturbing. So is the mere fact that he was tortured in a manner that led to his death for no reason at all. We have heard of such criminal acts before. We hope the perpetrators will be treated as criminals and punished for taking the life of a young man. We also hope for a day that Pakistanis can hold their heads high and say that their country is one where minorities don’t have to live in fear. For now, we just cannot claim that.