By Worthy News Asia Service with reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos
LAHORE, PAKISTAN (Worthy News) -- A Christian man was beaten to death in Pakistan's Punjab province for drinking from a tea cup “designated for Muslims,” the latest in several attacks against the Christian minority in this region, local Christians and rights investigators said Friday, June 12.
Advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC) said it learned that “radical Muslims” running a tea stall beat Ishtiaq Masih last month after he ordered tea at a roadside stall in Machharkay village where his bus stopped “to allow passengers to relieve themselves.”
“When Ishtiaq went to pay for his tea, the owner noticed that he was wearing a necklace with a cross and grabbed him, calling for his employees to bring anything available to beat him for violating a sign posted on the stall warning non-Muslims to declare their religion before being served,” ICC said.
Ishtiaq had reportedly not noticed the warning sign before ordering his tea, as he ordered with a group of his fellow passengers. “The owner and 14 of his employees beat Ishtiaq with stones, iron rods and clubs, and stabbed him multiple times with kitchen knives as Ishtiaq pleaded for mercy.”
Other bus passengers and passers-by finally intervened and took Ishtiaq to the Rural Health Center in the village. ICC said. “There Ishtiaq died as a result of spinal, head, and chest injuries. The doctor who took Ishtiaq's case told ICC that Ishtiaq had excessive internal and external bleeding, a fractured skull, and brain injuries.”
Makah Tea Stall is located on the Sukheki-Lahore highway and is owned by Mubarak Ali, a 42-year-old radical Muslim, ICC said. An ICC investigator visiting the area apparently observed a large red warning sign with a death's head symbol which read, "All non-Muslims should introduce their faith prior to ordering tea. This tea stall serves Muslims only." The warning also threatened anyone who violated the rule with "dire consequences."
A neighboring shopkeeper told ICC on condition of anonymity that Ali is a fundamentalist Muslim and all his employees are former students of radical Muslim schools, known as madrassas.. Ali kept separate sets of cooking-ware for Muslims and non-Muslims at his stall, they said.
Ishtiaq's family reportedly said they immediately reported the incident to police and filed a case against Ali. “Though the police registered their case, no action has been taken to apprehend Ali or his employees.”Ali was not immediately available for comment.
In published comments, a police official of the local Pindi Bhatian Saddar police station said however that investigations were underway and they are treating it as a faith-based murder by biased Muslims. When asked about Ali's warning sign, police chief Muhammad Iftikhar Bajwa claimed that he could not take it down, ICC said.
ICC said Pakistan “explicitly prohibits such discrimination, and the police could take strong action against the warning sign.” Ishtiaq's father has reportedly said that police are reluctant to take action as they are also Muslim and that “the murderers who are still freely operating the tea stall.”
The case is the second reporter murder of Christian my radical Muslims in Punjab province in recent weeks. Last month, another young Christian man was reportedly and murdered by angry Muslims, for making love with his Muslim girl friend and refusing to convert to Islam.
Christian leaders have also been targeted, Christians say.
In one of those incidents a traffic incident in Punjab Province led to Muslim assailants later mounting an attack on the home of a Christian pastor in the town of Kila Sardar Shah in Sheikhupura district, who they already criticized for his evangelism “and justice ministries,” said mission group Christ for All Nations Ministries (CANM) in published remarks.
Some 17 attackers struck the mother and sister-in-law of pastor Riaz Masih with rifle butts June 1 after the pastor’s brother in the same housing complex complained to a local councilor about the official nearly driving into his sons, CANM said.
CANM said the attackers threatened more violence against Pastor Riaz Masih if he does not assault charges. Masih had reportedly complained to a to a local councilor about the official nearly driving into his sons.
Christian leaders have described the roadside incident as “only the fuse igniting hostilities” that have grown due to meetings held by CANM, as they apparently attracted many youths, including some Muslims.
Christians make up less than five percent of the country's mainly Muslim population of about 176 million people, according to United States Central Intelligence Agency estimates.