05/22/2019, 19.11
PAKISTAN
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Christian labourer killed by employer in Faisalabad because he wanted to change jobs

by Shafique Khokhar

Javed Masih, leaves a wife and a disabled child. His employer had him abducted and tortured. The minimum monthly wage set by the government is US$ 109, whilst the murder victim made only US$ 66.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - A man was killed by his employer because he had decided to change jobs, given the pittance he was paid and the ongoing harassment the employer and his sidekicks inflicted upon him.

Javed Masih, a 36-year-old Christian man, leaves a wife, Ghazala, 35, and a disabled son, Junaid, 8. His wife told AsiaNews that her husband had been working as a farmhand for four months for Abbas Olaf, a Muslim. On 16 May, he was abducted, tortured and killed.

Javed “had to put with religious discrimination at the hands of his boss and his friends. We never had the courage to file a complaint because we are poor and we know that the police would not have listened to us. I ask the people of God to help us. The saddest thing is his son will never see his father again and we will be forced to live without him and his support."

The victim and his family lived in Nalka Kohala, near Faisalabad. About four months ago he accepted a job as a farm labourer for only 10,000 rupees a month (US$ 66)], with 6,000 (US$ 40) paid in advance. The minimum wage set by the government is 16,500 rupees (US$ 109).

Javed knew that his salary was a pittance, but had no choice given his family’s poverty. However, in early May he decided to accept a job offer from another employer, who paid twice (20,000 rupees, US0), with a month paid in advance.

The higher salary would have given him and his family a bit of financial breathing space, considering the high medical costs for their disabled child.

Upon hearing Javed’s intention of leaving, his employer, Abbas, got very angry and told him that if he wanted to leave, he had to pay a penalty, about US$ 40.

Javed raised the money requested thanks to a loan from the new boss and went to Abbas's house to pay him. Here he was abducted by the employer, Naveed Abbas (the employer’s brother-in-law), Naeem (a cousin) and a friend, Jugnu.

When her husband failed to come home, Ghazala went out looking for him, and eventually filed a case of missing person. On Saturday, a police patrol found his body in a canal.

At present, no one has been arrested in connection with the murder. The funeral was held last Sunday (19 May). On the same day, Ejaz Augustine, Punjab Minister for Human Rights and Minority Affairs, visited the family and promised to bring the perpetrators to justice.

According to Naveed Walter, president of Human Rights Focus Pakistan, the Christian man’s murder "is indicative of a mindset that considers members of minorities as slaves. The Pakistani Constitution bans all forms of slavery and forced labour: Article 37 mentions minimum conditions of employment and Article 38 guarantees the equality of all workers, regardless of sex, caste, creed or race.”

Yasir Talib, activist and coordinator for the Provincial Ministry of Human Rights and Minority Affairs in Faisalabad, notes "many Muslims also work in the fields, but conditions for Christians are four times worse.” Indeed, “Javed was murdered because he was poor and belonged to a religious minority.

What is worse, is that even if they tried and convicted, “culprits know that sooner or later they will be freed, which is what happened to two of the killers of Shama and Shahzad (a Christian couple alive thrown into a brick kiln), who were acquitted by the Lahore High Court."

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