A 22-year-old Christian laborer died after local landowners in the Punjabi city of Kasur savagely beat him for washing himself in their tube water well.
The victim, Saleem Masih, was transferred to Lahore General Hospital on Feb. 28, where he succumbed to his injuries after being tortured earlier that week, Pakistan Today reported.
The violent attack happened in Kasur, some 53 kilometers south of Lahore.
“On Feb. 25, Saleem had finished unloading chaff in fields in Baguyana village and was rinsing himself off in the tube-well when a group of men … yanked him out of the water and began beating him,” Saleem’s father Ghafoor Masih told the paper.
“They cursed and abused Saleem for ‘polluting’ the water, calling him a ‘filthy Christian,’” Masih claimed, adding his son had been dragged to their cattle farm, where his hands and feet were bound with chains.
From there, the men continued to beat him with sticks and rods.
“They also rolled a thick iron rod over Saleem’s entire body, causing multiple fractures and internal injuries,” Masih said.
The victim’s father said police only informed him of the incident hours after his son had been taken hostage and tortured.
Finding his son bloody and unconscious, he alleges the assailants justified their crime by saying the victim “had dirtied their well water.”
Masih also claims he was forced to beg to take his son to hospital for treatment, while the police stood by and did nothing.
Nasir Saeed, director of Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) UK, a Christian charity dedicated to helping persecuted Christians in Pakistan, said it was unfortunate such hate crimes were still happening in the 21st century.
“We want Ghafoor Masih to get justice and the killers behind the bars, but since the perpetrators are so influential it is not going to be easy because the Pakistani police is often biased when it comes to the matter [of] Muslims and non-Muslims,” Saeed said.
However, Punjab minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Ejaz Alam Augustine said action would be taken against the perpetrators and the police.
“Our first priority was to save the young man’s life and I had directed the hospital authorities to ensure best medical treatment to him. Now the nature of the case has changed and a murder charge will be added,” he told Pakistan Today.
In response to claims the young man was killed in a religiously-motivated hate crime, Augustine said the attack had resulted from a bigoted mindset.
“No law can change such a mindset. The government is trying to promote tolerance for the other faiths but it is an uphill task that cannot be achieved overnight,” he said.
Pakistan has been ranked among one of the worst countries on earth in regards to anti-Christian discrimination.
Among other incidents, accusations of blasphemy have increasingly led to mob violence targeting Christians and other religious minorities in recent years.