Lahore: April 5, 2017. (PCP) A Christian man of 20 years, was brutally shot dead in the streets of Sheikhupura, for daring to refuse to clean the home of a wealthy Muslim.
Apparently Noman Munir Masih had refused to clean the home of Daanu Chadder an influential Muslim because Noman who was a committed Christian was not willing to work on a Sunday.
Daanu Chadder is said to have been offended by the audacity of lowly Christian cleaner Noman who refused to clean his outhouse. On receiving the decline Mr Chadder immediately started to curse and swear at Noman and had even went as far as telling Noman that he would 'break his legs and riddle his body with bullets.'
Sadly for Noman, Mr Chaddar did not just say an empty threat in a fit of anger but was already planning his death by the time Noman had left.
Three days after the refusal Noman was shot dead by two drive-by-motorcyclists who opened fire and killed him instantly with multiple-shots.
Police have arrested Mr Chaddar as the primary suspect but he has not been charged.
Masih's distraught mother Khalida Bibi said her eldest son was killed by a man with a pistol.
She told Morning Star News: 'They were about to leave after dropping off Noman when suddenly two motorcyclists arrived there.'
'One of them whipped out a pistol and opened fire on Noman, killing him instantly.'
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA, said "Christians are despised in Pakistan because their faith is believed to taint their very soul.
"Even touching one is believed to make Muslims ritually impure and in many places in Pakistan, Christians are forced to drink water from puddles and streams because they are denied access to clean water pumps.
"This latest murder of a cleaner adds to a growing list of similar murders, where Christian sweepers have refused to clean an area or have politely asked for a Muslim to move so that they can finish cleaning the road.
"Quite commonly the perpetrators are never found despite many witnesses, never charged despite clear evidence or never convicted, as families under duress agree to receive compensation in lieu of hurt caused by the murder.
Mistreatment of Christian sweepers and cleaners in entrenched in Pakistani society.
For instance, in 2009 an incident with a Christian bus driver called Sardar Masih in a village just south of Kasur on the border with India led to the whole Christian community having to flee. He asked Muhammad Hussein to move his motorbike which he had left in the middle of the road. Hussein refused, asking how could a 'Chuhra' (sweeper) give him an order. The argument grew into a brawl between two families, and (surprise, surprise) the Muslims accused the Christians of committing blasphemy. The entire Christian population of the village had to flee.
Then in 2011, we reported on another incident in which a Christian street cleaner was stabbed to death by a Muslim shopkeeper with the words 'How dare a Chuhra argue with me?' This was after telling the sweeper, Abbas Masih, to pick up the dead leaves and flowers outside his flower shop, and Masih had said he would do it in a minute after finishing off the other end of the street. The shopkeeper stabbed him in the heart, and he died on the way to hospital. The police only filed a First report on the case after Christian leaders protested.
Masih worked for Solid Waste Management for 16 years, but his family got no compensation, even though he should have been entitled to it by law. Why? Well, temporary workers don't get paid holidays, no benefits, no rights to health care etc. And Masih was a 'temporary worker' because SWM treats its Christian employees as temporary workers by firing them and rehiring them every 88 days. His family were too afraid to file a complaint because of the police notoriety for harrassing and laying false charges against Christians who come to them with complaints such as these.
Although Christians make up about 2% of the population, 90% of sewerage workers and an even higher percentage of street cleaners are Christian, trapped in a cycle of dangerous and life threatening jobs that pay a pittance, long hours, no pensions and no health care or compensation for families because their employees won't hire them as permanent workers (which would count as civil servants and would mean entitlement to job-related healthcare and other benefits). They work until they are too ill or old and feeble to work and are then cast off. Sewerage workers often die because of toxic gasses in manholes or because they are sent down to unblock sewers and the sudden rush of sewerage after they have freed a blockage can sweep them to their deaths, drowning them in a flood of excrement.
The director of SWM had promised in 2011 to put 400 Christian employees on full benefits, but reneged on that promise. When worker Anayat Masih Sahotra, a labour leader with 26 years service for the company, complained and organised a protest against such discrimination, he was suspended under baseless charges of forgery. He again protested and was told by the director :
'I know you low-born Christian Chuhras, and I know how to deal with you' a phrase that aptly sums up attitudes to Christians.
Then a lower level official of the firm invited Sahotra to visit for tea, and then had the police burst in and arrest him for 'intimidating' the deputy. All this, of course, was to intimidate him into dropping his demand for fair rights for Christian workers.
Street cleaners, for example, work from 4am to 7pm, and earn $100 a month, so they have no other opportunity for finding other part time jobs, trapping them and their children into poverty, because they also can't afford education for their children, who then also become sweepers. In fact job adverts for sweeper jobs often specify non-Muslims only, and some even say Christian only.
This attitude is a combination of Hindu caste notions where the Dalits or Untouchables were eternally seen as despicable and dirty (a great deal of Christian sweepers are from families of Dalits who converted in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, in part to get away from such prejudice) which has merged since the formation of Pakistan with Muslim notions of 'uncleanness' which is meant to be a temporary state (although across the Muslim world there is an increasing notion that Christians and 'infidels' are permanently unclean) and conspires with the dirty jobs Christians are trapped in to mean that in essence a religious-based caste system continues in Pakistan. There is no modern sanitation system in Pakistan, so Christians are forced to work by hand in a dirty and unhealthy job but are denied the healthcare rights as employees that they should have.
A number of blasphemy cases stem from such 'caste-but-really religion'-based discrimination, including most famously that of Asia Bibi, where the whole incident started when Muslim co-workers rejected her offer of water to drink because her 'unclean Christian' hands had contaminated
In a rare but encouraging case, a Christian called Labha Masih, whose parents are street cleaners, passed his civil service exams and was appointed as a Judicial Magistrate in 2013. Read more (click here)
In 2015, A Christian headteacher was beaten by Muslim co-workers jealous of his high position. Many of the Muslim teachers could not accept the authority of an educated Christian head teacher despite his many years of experience. While beating him the Muslim teachers told him as a Christian he should be a sweeper.