Christian sanitary worker killed by Baloch militants in Turbat

    Suspected militants have gunned down a Christian sanitary worker in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan, accusing him of spying against them.

    According to details, Pervaiz Masih, a 55-year-old father of four from Punjab province, was shot dead by two men on a motorcycle near Turbat’s Jamia mosque on April 12. Police said the assailants had riddled Masih’s body with 13 bullets. The victim worked as a sweeper in the provincial irrigation department and the Turbat Municipal Corporation.

    Baloch Liberation Army, an ethnic-nationalist militant group, in a statement said they killed Masih because he was “spying for Pakistani intelligence agencies posing as a government employee”.

    The militant group’s spokesman Jeeyand Baloch claimed they had “made it clear on April 9 that those working as spies on the payroll of the occupant Pakistani army and intelligence agencies in Turbat and other areas are on our target”.

    “Our attacks on the occupant army and its shareholders will continue till we get a free country,” he added.

    Masih’s body was brought to his hometown Okara where he was buried on April 14.

    According to his son Charles Masih, the victim had sent his youngest son, also a sanitation worker in Balochistan, to celebrate Easter with the family while he had stayed behind to collect his delayed salary.

    “He was supposed to be with us during the upcoming Eidul Fitr holidays,” Masih told a media outfit.

    He said the militant group was “lying” about his father. “All those killed by separatists are labeled as spies, a typical allegation to cover up the crime.”

    He said his father regularly attended Sunday Mass in a church in the army headquarters, the only church in Turbat.

    “Perhaps his regular Sunday visits to the army area led them to assume that he was a spy,” he added.

    According to reports, Masih’s brother-in-law, also named Pervaiz Masih, was similarly killed in a militant attack in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, a day after Easter in 2018.

    In Balochistan, ethnic identity poses a major challenge in the remote regions outside Quetta.

    Ethnic groups like the Balochs and Pashtuns view the Punjabi people as oppressors due to their dominance of Pakistan’s politics, bureaucracy, military, economy and culture since the birth of the nation in 1947.

    Masih is the second Christian sanitation worker killed so far this month in Pakistan.

    Kashif Masih was shot dead on April 1 in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, a day after a Sikh shopkeeper Dayal Singh was killed by an unidentified motorcyclist in another area of Peshawar.

    Police said Singh died on March 31 in his grocery shop, which sold goods at a discounted rate to help observe the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

    A day before, Birbal Genani, a Hindu ophthalmologist, was shot dead by unknown assailants in the port city of Karachi in Sindh province. His assistant also sustained bullet injuries.

    The Church in Balochistan has endured the brunt of the separatist conflict.

    In 2013, Sri Lankan missionary Bishop Gnanapragasam narrowly escaped death when a bomb exploded near his residence.

    In 2017, two suicide bombers struck a Methodist Church in Quetta while children were rehearsing a Christmas play. Nine people were killed and 57 were wounded in the attack claimed by the Islamic State terrorist group, also known as Daesh.

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