Christian Couple Beaten Then Burned to Death in Pakistan for Allegedly Desecrating a Quran Were Expecting 4th Child

Christian couple Shehzad, 35 (R) and Shamah Masih (L), 31, were killed for allegedly desecrating the Quran in Pakistan, November 2014. | (Photo: Twitter)

Christian couple Shehzad, 35, and Shamah Masih, 31, were beaten then burned to death by a mob of Muslims in Punjab Province, Pakistan, Tuesday for allegedly desecrating a Quran.

In the photo, Shamah, who reports say was pregnant at the time of her death, clings to the arm of her husband.

All that's left of them now are bones and ashes, their three orphaned children, and photographs.

"It was all ashes and some bones of the couple which is left to bury," said Human Liberation Commission Pakistan Chairman Aslam Sahotra, who went to see the victims at a local hospital, according to a PTI report.

There are different versions of why the couple died, but news outlets have reported that the tragic end of their lives had its genesis in a dispute over money.

Emanuel Sarfraz, Shehzad's cousin, explained in one report that the couple was desperately trying to provide for their four children, including the one Shamah was expecting.

They had been working at the kiln owned by Muhammad Yousuf Gujjar for a while and wanted to leave because Gujjar wasn't paying their wages. Gujjar told them that they couldn't leave unless they paid him the equivalent of nearly $5,000 (500,000 Pakistani Rupees).

"Two days ago, after an exchange of words, Yousuf locked the couple along with their children in a room," said Emanuel. On Tuesday morning, an announcement was made from two mosques in the village that the couple had committed blasphemy by burning the pages of a Quran and a frenzy erupted.

"A large number of Muslims led by area clerics reached the kiln and dragged the couple out of the room after breaking into it," Emanuel continued.

The Muslims tortured and beat the couple; and even though they begged for their lives and pleaded their innocence, they were thrown into the kiln and burnt alive.

The orphaned children of Christian couple Shehzad and Shamah Masih who were killed for allegedly desecrating the Quran in Pakistan, November 2014. | (Photo: Twitter)

"No one from the crowd listened to the couple, who were pleading that they were innocent as Yousuf had levelled a false allegation of blasphemy against them to settle a money dispute," Emanuel added. "Thank God they did not burn the couple's children."

Zohra Yusuf, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, noted in a release that that they sent a team to the couple's village who confirmed that Shamah was pregnant at the time of her death. The team did not find any evidence that the couple had desecrated the Quran.

"It appears that the murdered man, Shehzad, had a dispute over wages, or recovery of advance that the kiln owner had extended to two families of Muslim laborers who had escaped. The kiln owners had asked Shehzad to repay the amount extended to the escaped families because he had introduced them to the owners," said the release.

"It appears that Shehzad and Shama had been severely beaten up at the kiln and locked up in a room. Some witnesses say that Shehzad had died in the beating. Shortly afterwards, when word of alleged desecration was spread to nearby villages and announcements made through mosque loudspeakers, a mob of hundreds headed toward the kiln," it continued.

The human rights group noted that police officers had arrived on the scene and demanded the release of the couple before the mob had arrived.

"The HRCP team learned that the kiln owners instructed their employees not to hand the couple over and the policemen were also beaten up," said the release. "HRCP is still trying to get the police version and the DPO had said that the police were investigating the matter and around 40 persons had been arrested, including the kiln owner."

The Christian Post reported Wednesday that at least 44 people were arrested in connection with the murders.

"HRCP must voice its outrage at the tragic killing and state that the chances of the couple getting any benefit of doubt diminished when they were accused of desecrating the Quran. The religious belief of the victims also apparently did not work in their favor," explained the release.

"The individuals, whether at the kiln or in nearby villages, who instigated violence against the victims, and those who prevented their rescue must be brought to justice. The exploitation of kiln workers is an essential part of the context of the tragic killing and this incident should lead to accelerated efforts to ensure that slavery-like practices that continue despite a promise in the constitution cease without further delay," it ended.

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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