Pakistani Christians in the town of Sialkot Tehsil in Punjab province took to the streets over the weekend to protest the killing of a devout Christian father of five who was shot to death last week while at work.
Nazir Masih, who worked as a janitor at the municipal government council building in Sialkot Tehsil, was busy cleaning the street outside of the office around 7 a.m. last Thursday when unknown gunmen shot him dead.
The British Pakistani Christian Association, a U.K.-based watchdog group for Pakistani Christian persecution, reports that the culprits who struck Masih with four bullets were able to escape unidentified and remain at-large.
"I received a call from Mohammad Shafiq, a sanitary supervisor at my brother's place of work. He advised me that my brother had been shot dead. I just cried and cried. I had to tell his wife and children and the rest of my family. It tore my heart to shreds, I loved my brother Nazir so much," BPCA quoted Masih's brother as saying. "After letting the family know, I rushed to the place where my brother had been shot and found his dead body surrounded by many people in the street. There was blood all around him. He was such a humble gentleman and had no enemies. I cannot understand why anyone would want to shoot him."
According to BPCA, many Christians in the area gathered outside the town center on Saturday to protest and call on the local police to undergo a thorough investigation and uphold justice by prosecuting Masih's killers.
BPCA President Wilson Chowdhry told The Christian Post on Wednesday that as many 100 residents gathered in the town center and called on the local government council to compensate Masih's family since he was on duty at the time he was killed and the family's main source of income.
Despite public pleas for the local government to compensate the family, the council declined to provide financial assistance, according to BPCA.
Following the protest, local police officials said they have now launched an investigation and believe Masih's death could have been the result of a "small-scale terrorist attack."
"We are saddened by this murder case and have registered a First Investigation Report," investigating officer Mohammed Masood told BPCA officer Shamim Masih. "An investigation is under process and will be extremely vigorous. So far the motive of the killer is unknown, this may even have been a small scale terrorist attack. The police authority is committed to find the killer and we hope to have success as it happened in broad daylight."
Another police officer, Rai Ijaz, told Masih that it is possible the victim was killed because he witnessed a crime that someone did not want him to see.
"We can only guess the motive of the killers and our hunch is that Nazir may have witnessed a crime or seen some sought after criminals," Ijaz explained. "He simply was at the wrong place at the wrong time and was killed so he could not provide evidence."
BPCA reports that since Masih has been killed, his family is now unable to pay their rent and school fees for the four youngest children, the youngest of which is 11 years old. To help relieve the family's burden, the organization has launched a donation campaign that will support the Masih family.
"This crime is not one of our usual persecution stories. Nevertheless, through no fault of their own, a Christian family now finds themselves in serious financial problems due to the loss of a main breadwinner," Chowdhry said in a statement. "This family have little hope of justice and stand no chance of any compensation. We believe it is our Christian duty to help these victims and we will do whatever we can to help them adjust to their new deplorable situation."