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Christian Pakistani Man Shot to Death for Living in Muslim Area

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A Christian man who was shot in early June for purchasing a home in a Muslim neighborhood in Pakistan has succumbed to his wounds. Nadeem Joseph died nearly a month after he and members of his family were attacked on June 4, 2020. Salman Khan, one of those who attacked the Pakistani Christians, is reportedly still at large. 

“Nadeem Joseph was sprayed with bullets few weeks ago [sic] just because he purchased a house in a Muslim area and his neighbors didn’t tolerate the presence of a non-Muslim in their neighborhood,” said Pakistani activist Rahat Austin on Twitter. “He remained admitted in the hospital & died during his 5th surgery on June 29, 2020.”

OpIndia reports that while he was hospitalized, Joseph explained in a recorded message, “I purchased the house in TV Colony a month ago. I still have to make the full payment, but Salman Khan, a Muslim man who lives opposite my house, wasn’t happy about it. He started harassing us and asked us to leave.” When it became apparent that Joseph and his family would not leave, Khan and his sons attacked them.

Nadeem Joseph and the Persecution of Pakistani Christians

One month before the attack, Nadeem Joseph, age 50, purchased a house for 600,000 Pakistani rupees (about $3,600 U.S. dollars). The residence was located in TV Colony in Peshawar, which is the capital of Pakistan’s Khybar Pakhtunkhawa province. Asia News reports that Joseph and his family moved into the residence in late May. 

According to International Christian Concern (ICC)—which reported that Joseph died on June 30—after Joseph and his family moved in, the neighbors started harassing them. This intimidation included driving loud motorcycles by the house, damaging the doors of the residence, and calling the family “chooras,” a pejorative term meaning “untouchable” or “dirty.” It is not clear how many neighbors were involved in this harassment, but reports agree the main perpetrators were Salman Khan and his sons (of which there were four, according to The Christian Post).

Khan and his sons repeatedly harassed Joseph from the time he and his family moved into the neighborhood, telling him the area was “for Muslim residents only” and that he needed to leave. According to OpIndia, Khan saw Joseph and his family as enemies because of their faith, and he told them they would face “serious consequences” if they were to stay. Asia News says another possible reason why Khan saw Joseph as a threat is that the Khan family was trafficking cocaine.

Shortly before the attack, Khan gave Joseph a 24-hour ultimatum to leave, after which he and his sons returned to Joseph’s home with guns. When Joseph saw the weapons, he called the police, and that was when the attackers shot him and two other members of his family. 

Khan and his sons shot Joseph twice in the stomach and shot his mother-in-law in the shoulder. ICC reports that Joseph’s brother-in-law sustained an injury as well, apparently in the leg. The victims reportedly received no help from their neighbors, but called an emergency number and were then transported to Lady Reading Hospital, where Joseph made a report to the police.

OpIndia says Joseph believed he was in danger even after the attack. “I am feeling scared even in the hospital,” he said. “I fear my life and my family.” The police arrested some members of Khan’s family, but Salman Khan himself escaped. Christian activist Khalid Shahzad told Asia News at the time, “The main offender is still at large. Law enforcement agencies must do everything possible to capture him and bring him to justice.” The Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), a Christian charity that supports persecuted Christians in Pakistan, says that Khan is currently at large and the police are still searching for him.

Widespread Persecution of Pakistani Christians

Open Doors ranked Pakistan as number five on its most recent World Watch List, an annual report that ranks countries based on severity of Christian persecution. Pakistan receives this high ranking primarily because of “Islamic oppression,” particularly as demonstrated by the country’s harsh blasphemy laws and the treatment of Pakistani Christians as second-class citizens.

One of the most highly publicized examples of such oppression was the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian Pakistani woman who was arrested in 2009 on charges of blasphemy (which is punishable by death). She spent at least nine years in prison and was cleared of charges in October 2018. However, Bibi was almost sent back to death row after Muslim extremists rioted in protest at her acquittal. Even after the court reviewed Bibi’s case and acquitted her once more, it looked doubtful as to whether she would make it out of Pakistan safely. Bibi finally escaped to Canada, where she was reunited with her husband and children. Nevertheless, this is just one example of an extended ordeal that has a happy ending; there are many other stories of the suffering of Pakistani Christians.

CLAAS-UK Director Nasir Saeed says, “Atrocities against Christians continue to rise in Pakistan, and law enforcement authorities hardly take any action while the government turns a blind eye to all these atrocities…Such hateful treatment towards non-Muslims in Pakistan is now an everyday matter.”