ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Pakistani Christians demand an investigation into the death of Indaryas Ghulam, a 38-year-old Christian man who they say was tortured and sentenced to death by hanging after refusing to abandon his faith in Jesus Christ.
Ghulam was among 42 Christians detained on charges of lynching two Muslims who allegedly participated in a Taliban group attack against two churches that left at least 19 people dead more than 70 wounded in Youhanabad, a poor Christian settlement adjacent to Lahore city, church sources said.
He denied lynching Muslims after the church attacks on March 15, 2015. The prosecution allegedly promised to release him in exchange for abandoning his faith in Jesus Christ, according to Christians familiar with the case. Christians said that he could have saved his life, but decided to bear witness to his Christian faith onto death.
Reaching Pakistani officials for comment was difficult.
However, a key rights official told BosNewsLife that he was concerned that the Christian might have been tortured to death by law enforcement, though an appeal hearing against his death sentence had not even taken place. “When the wife saw his dead body, she was shocked at the number of bruises and cuts…” recalled Sardar Mushtaq Gill, director of the Pakistan-based Legal Evangelical Association Development (LEAD).
He called it “a clear indication of the brutality faced by Indarayas from police and prison staff.”
He was also suffering from Tuberculosis, a disease he contracted only 3 months prior to his arrest in March 2015, Gill added. “Indarayas was never provided proper health care and carried his poor health with dignity never letting his children know how much pain he was in.”
Several other Christians are known to have died while in police custody. They include Robert Danish, “killed in September 2009”; Qamar David, “assassinated in March 2011”; Zubair Rashid, who died in March 2015, and Liaquat Masih, who passed away in suspected circumstances in January 2016, Catholic sources said.
While officials reportedly said that Ghulam died “died of poor health”, his wife Shabana and daughter Shumir have expressed their doubts.
Ghulam’s death underscores wider concerns about a police crackdown on devoted Christians in Pakistan, a Islamic nation where attacks against churches have risen, according to LEAD and other advocacy groups.