Christian farmer shot dead by ‘influential’ Muslims in Okara

    A Christian farmer in Okara city of Punjab was allegedly shot dead by a group of local influential Muslims for stopping them from stealing his crop after trespassing into his orchard on January 11.

    According to a report published by the British Asian Christian Association (BACA), 55-year-old Allah Ditta confronted Usama, Muhammad Intizar and Muhammad Awais for destroying his orchard by repeatedly stealing guava produce. The report claimed that during the altercation, the trio allegedly called Allah Ditta a “chuhra” [a pejorative term used for Christians] with “no chance at justice” even if they killed him.

    The victim’s son, Shahbaz Masih, who was accompanying his father in the field, said that it wasn’t later that Usama pulled out a gun on his father and shot him in the chest.

    The report quoted Shahbaz as saying that he ran towards Allah Ditta after hearing the gunshot and found him lying unresponsive in a pool of blood as the assailants fled the scene, threatening to kill his family if he informed the police.

    With emergency services arriving shortly after, the father of five was pronounced dead.

    An FIR [First Information Report] of the incident was registered at the Renala Khurd Police Station under sections 34 (common intention) and 302 (premeditated murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

    Police have so far arrested Intizar while Awais and Usama remain at large, the slain farmer’s cousin, Soobedar Masih, told BACA. “Intizar has confessed to the crime and we have been told that raids are being conducted to arrest his accomplices,” he said.

    According to the report, all three suspects belong to influential families and the prime suspect, Usama, is the son of a retired army officer. The former military person has already contacted Allah Ditta’s family and offered them Rs500,000 as blood money to drop the case under the country’s Qisas (equal punishment for the crime committed) and Diyat (compensation payable to the victims or their legal heirs) laws.

    Sections of the PPC which relate to the offences of murder and manslaughter were replaced in 1990 by the Qisas and Diyat Ordinance which redefines the offence and its punishment in Islamic terms. Under Islamic law, the punishment for murder, homicide or infliction of injury can either be in the form of Qisas or Diyat.

    While Allah Ditta’s family has refused the offer, it is now seeking protection amid threats to life, the report added.

    “We are struggling with day-to-day expenses ever since I lost my husband,” said Josephine Bibi, the widow of Allah Ditta.

    She added that it was cruel for her husband, a healthy and hardworking man, to suffer such a fate and not even get a chance to see any of his children get married.

    “We are good Christian people who have always gotten along with our Muslim neighbours. These young men are the vilest of creatures who bear immense evil in their hearts,” Josephine said, adding that the family was now in dire need of help with legal costs.

    While Allah Ditta’s family continues to make ends meet as they also pursue the case against the alleged killers, it merits a mention that the incident was not the first of its kind as a wave of religious extremism and prejudice grips the country.

    From extrajudicial killings over false allegations of blasphemy to forced conversion and marriages of underage minority girls, vulnerable religious groups continue to face widespread persecution in Pakistan.

    Political and religious leaderships belonging to minority communities have time and again voiced their concerns against these violations. However, it has brought little to no change in the lives of the people belonging to these vulnerable groups as they continue to live in fear amid legislation adding fuel to the fire of religious intolerance.

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