A 14-year-old Christian boy was sexually molested and murdered, and his body hung on a tree, in eastern Pakistan. Police reluctantly filed a complaint before declaring it to be a "natural" death despite witnesses pointing to unidentified Muslim men.
The body of the victim, identified as Zeeshan Masih and who was visiting his uncle's farm in Faisalabad, Punjab province, was found hanging from a branch of a tree near the farm, the British Pakistani Christian Association reported this week.
Masih was last seen while leaving his uncle's farm to buy a soft drink from a nearby shop on Aug. 23.
An autopsy report clearly showed signs of sexual assault and some witnesses said they saw unidentified Muslim men with the boy, but police initially told local media that the teen had died of a heart attack.
The group, which helps persecuted Christians of Pakistan, said local people suspect that authorities and police might be shielding a "pedophile ring."
"We now know that other children are complaining about sexual abuse and it is believed that Zeeshan was killed for threatening to tell his parents," the group said, adding that police filed a formal complaint only after pressure from local Christian leaders.
It's unlikely that the victim's family will get justice, said Kanwal Amar, a reporter from the group.
"The manner in which police officers have attempted to camouflage this crime has hurt and angered them," Amar said. "They are calling for an independent inquiry into the handling of their son's death… The (incidence) of rape, sodomy and murder in Pakistan (is) reaching unprecedented levels. Christians and other minorities are natural targets as they are disenfranchised by the country's laws and statutes, which confer second-class citizenship upon them."
Christians and members of other minorities are seen as soft targets in Pakistan.
In June, a Christian woman was beaten and gang-raped in front of her five children by a Muslim man seeking to avenge his family's "honor," because the woman's sister fell in love and fled with the man's brother.
The Muslim brother and a group of other men went to the home of the Christian woman, Samrah Badal, to ask about the couple, but Badal refused to say anything. As a consequence she was stripped naked and dragged out on the streets, where she was raped in front of her five children, Fides News Agency reported.
Forced marriages and conversion to Islam of girls and women belonging to religious minorities are prevalent in Pakistan, according to the Movement for Solidarity and Peace, which said earlier that around 700 Christian women are forced to embrace Islam every year.