Kamran Chaudhry, Lahore
Updated: October 19, 2017 11:27 AM GMT
Pakistani students in Jamia Binoria, the country's largest Islamic seminary, in Karachi on April 30. Armed police recently entered a school in Pakistan and beat a Christian student to death. (Photo by AFP)
A Pakistani Christian teen died as the result of a police beating for allegedly failing to stop at a security checkpoint, according to his family.
They denied claims that forced conversion was the reason behind his death.
Arsalan Masih, 15, was attacked by seven police officers at Ideal Science Academy on Oct. 9 in Jhabran village, Punjab province.
According to a first information police report, the armed men forcefully entered the academy and grabbed the eighth grader by his collar.
They pushed away a teacher and punched and kicked the victim, injuring his left eye with a pistol handle.
The report stated that Masih was then flung into a police van where he died.
About 5,000 angry villagers blocked traffic at Grand Trunk Road fronting the village on same day.
Tires were set alight during an 11-hour protest demanding action against the police involved.
Kamran Michael, the Christian Federal Minister for Statistics, visited the family on Oct. 12 in Jhabran village, home to about 250 Christian families.
Meanwhile, media quoted Masih's mother as saying the 15-year-old was being pressurized by his Muslim classmates to convert and this led to quarrel a few months ago.
However, Allah Ditta, Masih's brother refuted claims this was related to the brutal bashing.
"A class fellow had a close relative in police department," Allah Ditta said.
"He used his influence to call the police force, but this is not a case of forced conversion," he said.
The minister had given an assurance of legal and financial support, but the family wanted those responsible brought to justice.
Pastor Obaid Robert, of the local Presbyterian Church, said most of the protesters were Muslims from surrounding villages.
"They kept chanting slogans with us till three in the morning," he said.
Muslim politicians and elders were visiting the victim's house to offer condolences.
Some people wanted to protest at the funeral, but the family did not want turn to the current sympathetic environment against them, Pastor Robert said.
"Social media activists should avoid sharing false information," he added.
Meanwhile, raids were being carried out seeking the arrest of the police officers suspected of the attack who went into hiding.
Police officer Iftakhar Bhatti said three of the police officers suspected of being involved in the attack have already been arrested and charged with murder.
"We will not spare anyone," Bhatti said.
"The local community is under complete protection."
Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the Pakistani Catholic bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace, strongly condemned police brutality.
"The law should take its course whoever are the culprits," he said. "The law of the jungle reigns supreme in our society. The poor religious minorities are usually pressurized in such cases and usually there is no outcome."
Last month, a Christian student was beaten to death by classmates in a government-run school that is also in Punjab Province, Pakistan's most populous state and home to most of the country's less than 2 percent Christian population.