Christian Sanitation Workers Die In Pakistan Prompting Protests

Friday, October 22, 2021

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News

(Worthy News) - Two Christian sanitation workers have died in Pakistan’s Punjab province while saving a Christian colleague tasked with clearing a poisonous sewer, rights activists said Thursday.

The October 3 deaths of Faisal Masih and Nadeem Masih in Punjab’s city of Sargodha prompted protests against the alleged mistreatment of Christian sanitation workers.

Rights investigators concluded their troubles began after colleague Michael Masih was sent to work on a poisonous sewer late Sunday, October 3, despite being suspended from work.

Michael Masih was awaiting the outcome of a disciplinary hearing for unauthorized absence in September when he tried to claim sick leave due to alleged poor working conditions.

He was threatened with dismissal by supervisor Muhammad Farooq if he did not report for work that night, said advocacy group, Barnabas Fund.

Michael Masih was sent down a 30-foot manhole with damaged wooden stairs without an oxygen cylinder or any other personal protective equipment (PPE), Christians said.


When he passed out from inhaling toxic gases, Muhammad Farooq allegedly ordered Christian workers Faisal Masih and Nadeem Masih, who are no family members, to rescue him.

The company allegedly violated safety rules. “Again, PPE was denied. Faisal, like Michael, was suspended and was experiencing flu-like symptoms. And, Nadeem was on a self-employment contract that technically prohibited him from entering manholes,” Barnabas said, citing local sources.

The two rescuers “managed to haul Michael out of the sewer, assisted by other workers, but a strong current of water prevented them from exiting,” Christians said. Both men have reportedly swept away, leaving them unconscious.

“At this point, Muhammad Farooq finally called the emergency services. The emergency team, however, refused to go down the manhole to save the two unconscious Christians,” Barnabas Fund explained.

“They would, they believed, have become ritually unclean by contact with chuhras, a pejorative term for Christians who are often forced to take dirty and dangerous menial jobs.”

When a fourth Christian worker was summoned to assist half an hour later, Faisal and Nadeem were already dead, according to Christians familiar with the case.


Michael Masih survived after receiving oxygen treatment in the hospital for two days. But he said in a statement that he faces serious long-term health problems with continued breathing difficulties and severe damage to vision. “I still cannot believe that I have lost two men I consider my brothers, who gave up their lives to save me.”

The deceased’s employer, Sargodha Metropolitan Corporation (SMC), denied wrongdoing. It claimed all precautionary measures had been taken.

Pakistan Minority Alliance group chairman Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, who led protests alongside the bodies of the sanitary workers day, refuted this claim. He said the two were “on a suicide mission.” At one of the protest sites, angry Christians reportedly held up traffic for seven hours chanting slogans against SMC.

Barnabas Fund, which assists Christians, told Worthy News that community leaders had submitted a First Information Report with police required to launch a criminal investigation.

They accuse Muhammad Farooq and two other supervisors of “causing death by neglect,” charges the company denies. The deaths underscored broader concerns about minority Christians in Islamic Pakistan who are often forced to work as sanitation workers or other low-paid manual jobs.

The widow of Nadeem reportedly commented that “his death is a shock” to her family. “He was so young and has been a great and wonderful husband and father. We miss him so much, but God has called him to His breast, and we thank God for His gift of heaven.”

She added: “He died saving another man, and we know he would have done the same for others.”