ASIA NEWS REPORT: by Faisal Khan
The Masih brothers worked on land owned by the Dogar family. The latter are Muslim and some of its members used to get drunk and beat the tenants. When Asif and Khadim decided to quit, they were abducted. Nothing has been known about their fate since September. The authorities have not investigated the matter because one of the Dogars is a policeman.
Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Nothing is known of two Christian brothers from Faisalabad (Punjab) who were seized by the Muslim landowning family that employed them. The two disappeared on 14 September. Since then, “We have no idea where they are, whether they are dead or alive,” their mother told AsiaNews. A money dispute between the two Christian farm workers and their Muslim landlords is at the root of their abduction. Police have not yet opened a First Information Report because one of the landlords is a police officer.
Asif Masih, 23, known as Kali, and Khadim Masih, 35, come from a poor Christian family living in Chak 71, Jaranwala District, Faisalabad. They worked for 2,500 Pakistani rupees (US$ 29) a month for three Muslim landowners, policeman Javed Dogar and his brothers Sajjad Dogar and Rauf Dogar, who hail from Khurrianwala.
The mother of the two Christian brothers, Basheeran Bibi, said her sons had borrowed 20,000 rupees from the landowners, and were paying the loan back every month, out of their salary.
However, working for the Dogars was getting harder and harder. Although Muslims, they were often drunk and brutally beat the two Christians for no apparent reason.
When they found out, the parents of the Masih brothers suggested they pay off the debt and quit. This sparked an angry reaction from the Dogars who stormed the Masih home where they roughed up Niamat, the brothers’ father, who has a heart ailment. After that, they abducted the two brothers in September asking for a ransom of 70,000 rupees, plus the remainder of the debt.
The men’s mother tried to file a report with police, which refused because one of the suspects is a fellow police officer.
“Disputes between landowners and tenant farmers are commonplace in the area,” Fr Augustine, a priest in Faisalabad who provides financial and moral help to families, told AsiaNews. A serious and impartial inquiry should be conducted into the affair. “Farm workers are poor,” he explained. “They don’t have money to pay for legal action against landowners."