Fifty-five-year-old Perwaiz Masih is the latest victim of Islamist extremists targeting religious minorities
The bullet-riddled body of Pervaiz Masih lying at a hospital in Turbat, Balochistan province, on April 12. (Photo supplied)
Suspected Islamic extremists have gunned down yet another Christian in Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan, drawing concern and condemnation from Church leaders.
Pervaiz Masih, a 55-year-old father of four, was killed on the morning of April 12 by gunmen who arrived on motorcycles and sprayed him with 13 bullets near the Jamia mosque in Turbat, police said.
Masih, a native of Punjab was engaged in sanitation work in Balochistan. His body is being brought to his family in the Punjab province on April 13.
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His son Charles Masih termed the murder an ethnic killing.
“He sent our youngest brother, also a sanitation worker, to celebrate Easter with us and stayed behind to collect his delayed salary. He was supposed to be with us during the upcoming Eid ul-Fitr holidays,” he told UCA News.
The dead man’s brother-in-law, also named Pervaiz Masih, was similarly killed in a militant attack in Quetta, the capital of restive Balochistan province, a day after Easter in 2018.
“Balochi groups who kill Punjabis without warning on main roads to send a message. Nobody stops them. We rest our case in God who teaches us to stay tolerant in oppression,” the son said.
In Pakistan, ethnic identity poses a major challenge in the remote regions outside Quetta.
Ethnic groups like the Balochs and Pashtuns view the Punjabi people as oppressors due to their dominance of Pakistan’s politics, bureaucracy, military, economy and culture since the birth of the nation in 1947.
Masih is the second Christian sanitation worker killed so far this month in Pakistan.
Kashif Masih was shot dead on April 1 in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, a day after a Sikh shopkeeper Dayal Singh was killed by an unidentified motorcyclist in another area of Peshawar.
Police said Singh died on March 31 in his grocery shop, which sold goods at a discounted rate to help observe the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
A day before, Birbal Genani, a Hindu ophthalmologist, was shot dead by unknown assailants in the port city of Karachi. His assistant also sustained bullet injuries.
The killings come amid a rise in attacks by Islamist militants in the last few months, particularly since negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan militant group broke down last year.
This year, the group and its factions have unleashed a wave of attacks including a suicide bombing at a mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar that killed over 100 people, mostly policemen.
On April 10, a bomb blast in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, killed at least four people and wounded 15 others.
Sharafat Shareef, executive secretary of Caritas Quetta, termed it “a serious situation.”
“The people are going crazy amid rising food inflation and unemployment. The government should protect the poor sanitation workers, who are forced to work on a contract basis earning less than the minimum wage,” he said.
Former lawmaker Mary James Gill, who launched Pakistan's first advocacy campaign for sanitation workers in 2019, expressed shock at the latest killings.
“Those who are already doubly marginalized are now being targeted. Perhaps the increasing awareness among sanitary workers for social rights and respect doesn’t suit the extremists,” she said.
Sanitation workers make up just 2 percent of Pakistan's population of some 225 million. An estimated 80 percent of them are Christians.
They face discrimination and social exclusion within the Church and society in Pakistan.
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