A group of men came to Iqbal Masih’s snooker club in Lahore Development Authority (LDA) quarters in Model Town, Lahore, on the eve of February 13, 2022. What was meant to be a fun activity turned ugly, when they started arguing over the game – and some money matters. When Masih asked them to leave his club, the men abused him and ransacked his property. The situation worsened, as more representatives of the Muslim and Christian communities got involved in the fight.
Samsoon Gill, the victims’ uncle, filed an FIR against the attackers at 9pm on February 13. The next morning, on February 14, a group of some 150 to 200 Muslim men came to the Christian part of the LDA quarters with guns, bricks and iron rods, and threatened filers of the FIR. In the heat of the moment, they grabbed Iqbal Masih and beat him with bricks and iron rods and badly injured his brother and cousin. The victim succumbed to injuries in a local hospital shortly after. The residents of the LDA quarters called the police but they were not able to reach the crime scene on time because of the PSL activities in the Lahore.
Thirty-two year old Iqbal Masih lived in the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) quarters in Model Town, Lahore, where Muslim and Christian communities live separate lives. He was the only brother of six sisters and a son of a widowed mother. Masih ran a snooker club to earn a living.
While talking to Ravadari, Aamir Bashir, Chairman Voice of Minorities Pakistan, and representatives of Christian Lawyers Association in Pakistan condemned the incident. “Christians face difficulties in Pakistan. We cannot do business freely. Iqbal Masih lost his life while facing such difficulties,” said Bashir.
“Christians face difficulties in Pakistan. We cannot do business freely. Iqbal Masih lost his life while facing such difficulties,” said Aamir Bashir.
Rashid Masih*, a resident of LDA quarters, said, “The dispute between Christians and Muslims had been brewing since Iqbal Masih set up his club.”
Kiran Khokhar*, another resident of the area, said, “We decided to build a wall in the neighbourhood to allow Muslims and Christians to live separately in peace, and avoid daily squabbles between men who come to the Christian side to play snooker. The latest incident is not a result of tensions over the construction of the wall but years of discrimination against the Christian community living in Muslim majority area.”
Essa Sukhera, SP Cantonment, reached the site on February 14 for further investigation. The dead body was moved to a morgue for autopsy. A large crowd attended Masih’s funeral ceremony on February 16, 2022 in the LDA quarters.
Christian Lawyer Association in Pakistan also condemned the killing of Iqbal Masih and demanded justice. Although some arrests have been made and forensic evidence has been gathered, the victim’s family is still seeking justice.
Injustices against the minority communities in Pakistan continue unabated in Pakistan. Since the start of 2022, five Christian have been victims of persecution. On January 24, Karachi police shot three innocent boys, aged 13, 16, and 18 respectively. They were bread earners for their low-income families. Pastor William Siraj was killed on January 30 in Peshawar and Iqbal Masih on February 14, 2022, in Lahore’s LDA quarters.
Bashir said, “My political party is protesting in all the major cities of Pakistan so we can get our rights and should have elected leaders who fight for justice for our people. Why do we need to repeat ourselves? Christians demand rights and political justice.”
*Names have been changed to protect identities.
The blog has been published in collaboration with Ravadar – a series that documents lives of religious minorities in Pakistan.