Pakistani Christians are increasingly fearful after a 35-year-old Christian man was tortured and killed while in police custody in Lahore. Rakha Shahzad was arrested by local police on charges of selling drugs and alcohol, charges that the family says are false.
“Shahzad died due to police torture, while agents say he died because of a heart attack during the interrogation,” a relative told Fides.
Fr. Francis Nadeem, Provincial of the Capuchins in Pakistan, spoke about the bewilderment of the Christian community regarding Shahzad’s death, which he said was “due to the umpteenth extrajudicial killing.” Family members of the deceased have begun to protest in Lahore, even going so far as trying to forcibly enter the police station.
Three agents are under investigation for his death. Shahzad’s body was transferred to hospital where an autopsy will be carried out to determine the cause of death. Shahzad’s brother said he “was arrested for no reason” and called on the Pakistani government to intervene.
Christian lawyer Mushtaq Gill called on changes to current laws which do little to protect Christians against violence. The case comes on the heels of another savage act earlier this month where a Christian couple and their unborn child was murdered by a mob after being accused of desecrating the Quran.
“The whole world is still deeply shocked and outraged for the lynching of the Christian couple in Kasur, but violence continues: it is urgent to repeal laws that are routinely used to persecute Christians and ensure justice and legality, starting with the work and the behavior of the police and public officials,” Gill told Fides.