Violent Attack on Christian Shoe Factory Owner in Sargodha Highlights Religious Intolerance in Pakistan

Christian shoe factory owner Nazir Masih and family attacked in Mujahid Colony, Pakistan, following false accusations of desecrating the Holy Quran, causing severe injuries and international condemnation.

Violent Attack on Christian Shoe Factory Owner in Sargodha Highlights Religious Intolerance in Pakistan
Violent Attack on Christian Shoe Factory Owner in Sargodha Highlights Religious Intolerance in Pakistan

On May 25, 2024, Nazir Masih, a Christian shoe factory owner, and his family were brutally attacked by a mob in Mujahid Colony, Sargodha, following false accusations of desecrating the Holy Quran. The incident has sent shockwaves through the local Christian community, leaving them in fear and uncertainty.


The accusations were incited by Masih's neighbour, Irfan Gondal, who claimed that Masih had burned Quranic pages while disposing of waste papers in his factory. This false allegation quickly incited a mob to violently assault Masih, dragging him into the street, and setting his house and factory on fire. The mob completely destroyed all raw materials and packaging in the factory.


The attack was captured on video, showing the mob mercilessly beating Masih and causing severe injuries. Police intervened, rescuing Masih and his family from the mob. Masih is currently hospitalized and receiving treatment. Ten other family members were also rescued and are now in police custody for their protection.


Several other Christian families in the area have fled their homes in fear. The police, led by District Police Officer (DPO) Dr. Asad Ijaz Malhi, managed to restore order using tear gas to disperse the mob and arrest dozens of individuals. The police are analyzing CCTV footage to identify all perpetrators involved in the violence.


Two First Information Reports (FIRs) have been registered. The first, filed on May 25th, accuses Nazir Masih of desecrating the Quran under sections 295-A and 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code and section nine of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The second FIR addresses the violent response, with over 400 individuals charged with offenses including anti-terrorism, attempted murder, arson, unlawful assembly, and the use of explosives. Police have arrested over 28 individuals connected to the mob violence.


Punjab Minister for Minority Affairs, Ramesh Singh Arora, has vowed that those involved in the blasphemy incident will be punished according to the law. On May 26, 2024, the police imposed Section 144, prohibiting the assembly of four or more people, and launched an investigation into the violent clash.


Authorities have intensified efforts to bring all perpetrators to justice. Key figures believed to have incited the violence, including Irfan Gondal, his father Ayyub Gondal, and several Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) activists, have been arrested.


Nasir Saeed, Director of CLAAS-UK, emphasized the urgent need for justice and legal reforms to protect religious minorities in Pakistan. "Christians in Pakistan are in a state of fear," said Saeed. "The chaos of the Jaranwala incident is still fresh in our minds, and now this new attack has occurred. The perpetrators of the Jaranwala attacks have not yet been punished, and several have been released on bail. Witnesses of the Jaranwala attacks are being threatened, and even after nine months, justice has yet to be served to the victims of Jaranwala."

Saeed continued, "The unnecessary prolongation and intentional delay by the authorities in providing justice to the Jaranwala victims have encouraged this recent attack. If these attackers, including Irfan Gondal and his companions, are not brought to justice, it will send a message that anyone can take the law into their own hands and commit crimes under the guise of religion with impunity. The recent attack is a clear message that blasphemy laws are being continuously misused, and urgent changes are needed to save innocent people's lives."


"The international community has repeatedly called on the Pakistani government to take immediate steps to stop the misuse of the blasphemy law, but the Pakistani government has failed to adhere to or make changes to this law in line with the international human rights conventions Pakistan has ratified. There is an urgent need for international organizations, like the United Nations Human Rights Council and other global bodies, to remind Pakistan of its responsibility and take imminent steps to protect its minorities. Pakistan is already considered a dangerous country for religious minorities," Saeed added.


The investigation is ongoing, with more arrests anticipated as additional suspects are identified. Authorities remain committed to ensuring justice and maintaining peace within the community. Commissioner Sargodha Division, Muhammad Ajmal Bhatti, assured a transparent investigation and legal consequences for those spreading false accusations and inciting violence.


This incident underscores the urgent need for measures to protect religious minorities and prevent the misuse of blasphemy laws in Pakistan. The Christian community continues to call for justice and additional security measures to prevent further attacks. Addressing the root causes of religious intolerance is critical for long-term peace and coexistence.