By Jawad Mazhar, BosNewsLife Special Correspondent Reporting from Pakistan
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, handed over a nearly 6,000 dollar cheque to the mother of a murdered Christian domestic worker who became a symbol of ongoing mistreatment by Muslim employers of minority Christians in the Asian nation.
Nasreen Bibi received the financial assistance more than nine months after her 12-year old daughter Shazia Masih was tortured and murdered by her employers in Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, said the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), a major political and advocacy group.
One of the arrested suspects, publicly identified as the influential lawyer Naeem Chaudhry, has been released on bail pending trial. Chaudhry and his family allegedly tortured and killed the girl in January.
An autopsy report showed she had sixteen injuries including incision wounds, thirteen of which were inflicted by a rusted weapon and the rest by a sharp edged weapon, APMA said. “It also confirmed that the child had been physically tortured for a long period of time.”
In published remarks Bhatti, who is a Christian himself, said Shazia “was not only the daughter of a Christian, but a daughter of Pakistan and her murderers will be brought to justice.”
As is often the case in Pakistan, Shazia belonged to a poor Christian family and was working to for her family’s livelihood, APMA said. Sunday’s news of the financial assistance came amid fresh reports of abuse elsewhere in the country against Christian workers.
In one of the latest known cases in Punjab province, a Muslim land owner this month reportedly subjected a 25-year-old Christian to burns and a series of humiliations, including falsely charging him with having sex with a niece, because the Christian refused to work for him without pay.
Fayaz Masih was believed to be still in jail Sunday, October 30, with burns on his body after No. 115 Chitraan Wala village head Zafar Iqbal Ghuman and other villagers beat him, set fire to him and shaved off some of his facial hair on October 3, said Reverend Yaqub Masih, who knows him well.
Elsewhere, a Muslim landlord in Muhafiz Town ordered the kidnapping of the wife of one of his Christian workers, rights investigators said.
The abduction came after the landlord, identified by local media as Rao Nassr Sahi, reportedly told Ehsaan Masih to either divorce his wife or to pay 600 dollars in local currency for “stealing wood,” a huge amount in impoverished areas of Pakistan.
Masih payed Sahi the whole amount he demanded, but men linked to the landowner still abducted his wife, said village elder Javed Masih. “She was taken the evening of October 17. But Musarat Bibi was later recovered by the villagers trussed up,” he said.
The Christian couple has been reluctant to inform police, amid threats, Christians said, a common occurrence in predominantly Islamic Pakistan. Shahi has denied wrongdoing.
Minister Bhatti has said he wants to improve the rights of minority Christians, but rights groups say the government should do more to tackle Islamic extremism.