By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Police in Pakistan have filed murder charges against a Muslim employer who allegedly killed his Christian worker for staying at home one day because he was ill, BosNewsLife monitored Friday, February 18.
Twenty four-year old Imran Masih, a driver for two local Muslims, was found dead last week shortly after his employer verbally insulted, “attacked and killed him,” according to his family and rights investigators.
The employer, identified publicly as influential landowner Chaudhry Maqsood Cheema, was furious that Masih stayed home the previous day, February 5, because of sickness, said his father Lal Masih and local residents.
After the killing, his body was brought to Lal Masih on February 7, with the employer claiming he committed suicide, rights groups said. Masih’s relatives said that Cheema saw the young Christian man as a “soft target” whose family had little standing or legal recourse in the predominantly Muslim region.
Local police only filed formal murder charges and damages against the employer and his accomplices, who were not identified, after rights activists demanded justice during a protest in the city of Gujranwala, said advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC).
It was not immediately clear when and if Cheema, who has denied wrongdoing, will go on trial.
Napolean Qayyum, field officer for Christian legal aid organization Community Development Initiative (CDI), said in a statement that he fears someone had tampered with the autopsy report, which stated Masih died by hanging.
He said that Lal Masih told his team that the men washing his son dead body saw signs that he had been beaten, including injuries in his “private organs” and “a bruise on the back of his head.”
Rights investigators said they and the family only obtained the autopsy report after “persistent” efforts at the hospital. The case has underscored concerns among rights groups about the reluctance by authorities to investigate influential Muslims for wrongdoing against, often impoverished, Christian workers in several parts of Pakistan.
In a rare case of compensation, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, handed over a nearly 6,000 dollar cheque last year 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.
Her case was among a series of similar reported incidents.
Christians comprise less than five percent of Pakistan’s overwhelmingly Muslim population of more than 184 million people, estimates the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). (With additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).