By BosNewsLife Asia Service
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)-- A Christian man has been burned to death in north-eastern Pakistan amid growing violence against minority Christians in the Islamic Asian nation, rights activists confirmed.
The Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), a Christian charity, told BosNewsLife that 45-year-old Ameen Masih "was locked in his house" and "burned to death" by two shop owners "and their accomplices" in the town of Uggoki in the Sialkot area.
CLAAS said the married father of three was killed for allegedly not paying instalments for goods he received from a local shop. The charity quoted eywitness Khalid Yousaf as saying that Ameen bought electronic appliances worth 350,000 Pakistani Rupees (some $3,300) from Afzal Electronics and Shehran Electronics and sold them to pay off his debt.
"He was a hosiery worker with a limited salary and was therefore unable to pay the monthly instalment of 18,000 Pakistani Rupees ($172) on time," CLAAS told BosNewsLife in a statement monitored Thursday, April 20.
"On April 3...Muhammad Usman, Asim Ali, Yasir Bajwa and Shehran went to Ameen’s house, beat him with sticks and cricket bats and dragged him out while threatening to kill him if he did not pay the remaining amount,". BosNewsLife published the names of suspects as they were already publicly identified.
TRAPPED IN HOME
CLAAS said "the whole day his family was unable to trace him, but later that night the shopkeepers returned, trapped him in his home, set the room on fire and locked it. They stayed outside the room and did not allow any of the family members or local residents to unlock the room to save Ameen’s life."
His family called the police emergency number, but the perpetrators managed to escape with the keys to the burning room, Christians said. Residents and relatives eventually broke through the wall of the room engulfed with heavy smoke and found Ameen dead, BosNewsLife
Police reportedly shifted the Christian man's human remains to the Government Allama Iqbal Memorial Teaching Hospital in Sialkot for autopsy. "His funeral was held later in the evening and he was laid to rest on the same day on April 4, 2017," CLAAS said.
Police officials reportedly said that they detained Asim Ali, while Yasir was released on bail and suspects Usman and Shehran managed to escape. "Shehran’s family pledged to present him to police in a day or so," police was quoted as saying.
POLICE INVESTIGATION ONGOING
CLAAS said its team saw the actual room where Ameen was killed and met police who was "cooperating" with the family. "The team expressed condolences and offered legal assistance to Rakhil Bibi, Ameen’s widow. She works at Forward Gear Factory and has to raise three children, Suleman 14, Michel 12, and Unas 9," CLAAS added.
Rakhil Bibi was reportedly "in a great shock at the tragic loss of her husband" and said "it would be difficult" for her to manage the house hold and education of her three children."
The Christian father's children were "traumatized" at the loss of their father, she added, after witnessing "the brutal death of their father".
While money was mentioned as a reason, activists say Muslim mobs have often attacked Christians across the country.
Last year a Pakistan court sentenced five men to death for the murder of a Christian couple who were burned alive in November 2014
for allegedly setting accidentally fire to some pages of the Koran, deemed a holy book by Muslims.