By Sheraz Khan, South Asia Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM (ANS — December 10, 2017) — Usman Shaukat Masih, a 29-year-old Pakistani Christian man, who was in Kot Lakh Pat jail in Pakistan while he was on trial in an anti-terrorist court following accusations that, alongside a charged mob, he had attacked government properties in the wake of the 2015 Lahore church bomb attacks has died on Saturday December 9, 2017, ANS has learnt.
Masih was one of the 83 people named in the police First Information Report (FIR). Forty accused were later acquitted and one Christian man died in prison two months ago leaving Masih amongst 42 people who were still on trial in the anti-terrorist court on charges of attacking government properties in the wake of 2015 Lahore church bombings.
Saleem Khurshid Khokhar, founder of Minority Inqlabi Tehreek Pakistan (Minority Revolutionary Movement Pakistan) told ANS that he disputes the police version which holds that Masih died of a heart attack in the Kot Lakh Pat jail in Lahore.
Khokhar went on to say that the Minority Revolutionary Movement Pakistan declares Masih’s death a “murder” until the Pakistani authorities launched an investigation to determine what led to Masih’s death in the prison.
ANS could not independently verify what caused the death of Masih in prison.
Mr. Khokhar, a former member of provincial assembly Sindh, who now lives in Liverpool, United Kingdom, told ANS that the deputy attorney general of the Punjab government had in the past allegedly offered a “pardon” to Masih if he embraced Islam.
“Masih declined to convert to Islam and stood firm in his Christian faith,” Khokhar told ANS.
Mr. Khokhar called for a high court judge-led inquiry to establish the true cause of Masih’s death, and also called upon Mian Saqib Nisar, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, to take a suo motu action following Masih’s death.
Mr. Khokhar alleged that the government of Punjab and the federal government had failed to protect the lives and properties of Pakistani Christians, and other religious minorities.
He stated that all minority lawmakers in Pakistan, including Senator Kamran Michael and Khalil Tahir Sandhu, the provincial minister of human rights and minority affairs, should look into the circumstances that led to Masih’s death in the prison.
“Pakistani minorities are equal citizens of the state. It is unfortunate that their rights continue to be violated despite the past and present governments promises that they would protect and safeguard minority rights,” regretted Mr. Khokhar.
He told ANS that he recently wrote a letter to Pakistani Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, urging him to protect minority rights in Pakistan.
He also urged parliamentarians in the UK, and around the world, to exercise their influence on the Pakistan government, so that it takes “concrete” steps to protect and safeguard minority rights in Pakistan.
Mr. Khokhar added: “We urge human rights organisations in the UK, and around the world, to join hands with us in promoting the cause of Christians, and other religious minorities in Pakistan.
Commenting on Asia Bibi, the Christian mother-of-five who is on death row in Pakistan since 2009 after having been accused of having committing blasphemy, he said: “The continued incarceration of Asia Bibi shows the ever-increasing influence of religious fundamentalists in Pakistan.
“As we are going to soon enter 2018, I urge human rights organisations, human rights activists, minority rights leaders, church pastors, church leaders and church- based organisations around the world to step up their efforts aimed at getting Asia Bibi freed,” said Khokhar.
Asher Sarfraz, Chief executive of the Christian True Spirt (CTS), who lives in Germany, confirmed the death of Masih in Kot Lakh Pat Jail, stating that his team in Pakistan were working to ascertain the circumstances leading to Masih’s death. Founded in 2010, CTS has been working to advocate the cause of Pakistani Christians. Mr. Sarfraz claimed that his group had been representing Pakistani Christians in the European Parliament breakfast for last two years. “We advocated the cause of the Pakistani Christians at the European parliament breakfast on December 6, 2017,” he said.
Expressing lack of confidence on serving Christian and minority lawmakers in Pakistan, Mr. Sarfraz stated that they have failed to protect the lives and properties of Pakistani Christians and other religious minorities.
Asked what CTS does in Pakistan, he replied that they were working on bringing about a decrease in incidents of sexual harassment against Pakistani Christians.
“We have set up basic education and adult schools in Pakistan to promote the literacy rate amongst Pakistani Christians,” he said.
Photo captions: 1) Sign outside the Pakistan jail where the Christian man died. 2) Saleem Khurshid Khokhar. 3) Asher Sarfraz. 4) Asia Bibi. 5) Sheraz Khan.
About the writer: Sheraz Khan is a Pakistani-British journalist. He lives in Scotland and can be contacted by e-mail: email@example.com
** You may republish this or any of or ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net). Please also tell your friends and colleagues that they can get a complimentary subscription to ANS by going to the website and signing up there.