Relaymedia

Persecution in Pakistan: Christian Man Tortured, Killed By Police 'For No Reason'

( [email protected] ) Nov 26, 2014 11:53 AM EST

Pakistani Christians
Hundreds of Pakistani Christians protest the sentencing to death of Asia Bibi

A 35-year-old Christian man was brutally tortured and killed by police while in custody in Pakistan, a country notorious for its continued persecution of religious minorities.

Fides News Agency reports that the family of Rakha Shahzad is demanding justice for the slain man, prompting an investigation by authorities. Although the officers involved in the incident claim that the man was arrested for selling drugs and alcohol and died due to a heart attack, Shahzad's family asserts he was arrested for "no reason"--besides his Christian faith.

Fr. Francis Nadeem, provincial of the Capuchins in Pakistan, said that the Christian community in Pakistan has once again been left bewildered "due to the umpteenth extrajudicial killing."

Christian lawyer Mushtaq Gill told Fides, "The whole world is still deeply shocked and outraged for the lynching of the Christian couple in Kasur, but violence continues: it is urgent to repeal laws that are routinely used to persecute Christians and ensure justice and legality, starting with the work and the behavior of the police and public officials."

Persecution watchdog International Christian Concern has listed Pakistan as one of the "most difficult countries for Christian communities to exist" due to its harsh blasphemy laws, discrimination and outright persecution.

Earlier this month, Christian couple, 28-year-old Shahzad Masih and 25-year-old Shama Bibi were killed and burned by a mob of Muslims allegedly for desecrating a copy of the Quran.

"The accusation of blasphemy can be used for any dispute and can often prove deadly as it did today, inciting a mob to brutally murder this young couple," ICC Regional Manager Todd Daniels said at the time.

Asia Bibi
Asia Bibi, Christian mother-of-five, with her two daughters. (Asianews.it)

Likewise, Christian mother Asia Bibi currently faces the death sentence for disrespecting the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

A report by NGO network Awaz-e-Haq Itehad two weeks ago noted that 182 Christians have faced blasphemy charges in Pakistan between 1987 and October 2014, which often carry life in prison or the death penalty as punishment.

"The laws are often used to settle personal vendettas - both against members of minority religious groups and Muslims - while individuals facing charges are frequently targeted in mob violence," said David Griffiths, Amnesty International's deputy Asia Pacific director

"Those who speak out against the laws face terrible reprisals. However, the blasphemy laws violate international law and must be repealed or reformed immediately to meet international standards."

Since 2002, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has called on the administration to designate Pakistan a "country of particular concern," a step that would make it eligible for sanctions or other measures intended to prod governments to stop violating religious freedom.