Tragedy Strikes Two Christian Sewage Workers, Exposing Pakistan Workplace Safety Crisis and Family Devastation

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London: (By Hannah Chowdhry and Juliet Chowdhry) In a bid to supplement their meager income and provide for their impoverished families, two Christian sewer workers took on additional private work at an event hall, tasked with clearing a sizable drain. Tragically, their endeavor ended in fatal consequences as the two men were discovered lifeless by a waste clearance worker. It became apparent that they had succumbed to the lethal fumes of toxic gases, rendering them unconscious and ultimately claiming their lives.

Overwhelmed by grief and desperation, the families of the deceased took to the streets in protest outside the event hall, seeking answers and justice for their loved ones.

However, their quest for accountability was met with further adversity as the building owner exerted undue influence, coercing the families into withdrawing their application at the police station under the Qisas and Diyat compromise laws. In a distressing turn of events, the families also opted to forgo the postmortem examination of the bodies.

With the families’ compliance, the bodies of both men were laid to rest in a local graveyard on Monday, effectively halting any further investigation by the authorities and leaving unanswered questions lingering in the wake of this tragic incident.

On Sunday, March 17th, Asif Masih (30 yrs) and Shan Masih (24 yrs) left their homes and families to undertake some private work at Sapphire Marquee, an event hall, to earn additional income. Before leaving, Asif reassured his wife Rukhshana Bibi, promising to return promptly:

“We’ve taken up a job at the Sapphire Marquee, but don’t worry, I’ll be back in two hours as soon as I’ve finished.”

However, their work environment proved to be far from safe. Despite being tasked with clearing the drainage system, the marquee management had failed to provide any safety equipment to the two sewage workers or establish proper working protocols. In a negligent oversight, they had not even arranged for basic safety measures to be in place.

Upon returning from a trip to an illegal dumping site, the rickshaw driver noticed that Asif and Shan had not emerged from the drainage pipe. Concerned, he waited for a few minutes before mustering the courage to venture inside, hoping to check on their well-being.

As the rickshaw driver ventured into the pipe, he was horrified to discover both men unconscious and floating in the sewage.

“Their bodies were floating in the gutter. Only their arms were visible while the rest of their bodies were submerged,” the rickshaw driver recounted.

Desperately, he called out to the security officers on duty for help, but his pleas went unnoticed until it was tragically too late. Upon realizing the men’s fate, the security officers and staff fled the venue in panic. However, among the crowd that had gathered due to the rickshaw driver’s frantic cries, someone took quick action and dialed the emergency number, 1122. Medical rescue teams arrived swiftly and, despite the challenging conditions, managed to retrieve the bodies from the gutter with considerable effort.

At this critical juncture, no one had taken the initiative to inform the families of the two men about their tragic deaths. Neither the rickshaw driver nor the owner of the hall possessed any contact information or address for the workers. The families could have remained oblivious to the heart-wrenching event for days if a mutual friend of the victims hadn’t stopped to inquire about the commotion inside Sapphire Marquee. Sensing something amiss, he promptly contacted the family members and relayed the devastating news.

In a state of shock and anguish, the family members rushed to the scene, only to find their loved ones lying motionless on ambulance stretchers, awaiting transportation to Allied Hospital, Faisalabad, for a postmortem examination. Aliyas Masih, the father of Asif Masih, wasted no time in lodging an application with the police against the owners of Sapphire Marquee, holding them accountable for failing to provide adequate safety measures that ultimately led to the tragic loss of his innocent son.

It appears that the Station House Officer (SHO), Ghulam Muhammad Imran Ali Choudhary, colluded with Mian Muhammad Muratib, the owner of Sapphire Marquee, in dismissing the application and declaring the owner’s innocence in the deaths of Asif and Shan Masih. Faced with this blatant injustice from the police, the family members were compelled to take action, calling for a protest outside the event hall.

Led by Pastor Stephan Masih and Ifran Maish, a community leader, the protest commenced around 2:00 pm and persisted for two hours. Demonstrators blocked the main road, demanding justice for Asif Masih and Shan Masih.

Despite pressure from the police to disband the protest, Pastor Stephan asserted, “We refused to yield.” Senior members of the local police authorities eventually intervened, providing assurances that the police would diligently pursue justice in the matter.  At that point, the protest was terminated.

Following the protest, the situation took a disheartening turn when Aliyas Masih, unbeknownst to the protestors, withdrew the application against Mian Muhammad Muratib and opted against pursuing a postmortem examination of the bodies. It is strongly suspected that Mian Muhammad Muratib, a lawyer of the Lahore High Court and a politically well-connected individual, influenced the family to refrain from taking legal action. Although the family has not disclosed their motivations, there are murmurs among their acquaintances that they may have been coerced through threats.

Moreover, there are allegations that authorities from the Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) and the Faisalabad Police Department intervened, pressuring the family to withdraw the case, stating that the men took up the work themselves without appropriate documentation and approval from WASA.

The abrupt withdrawal of the application and the decision to forego the postmortem examination have left many unanswered questions and fueled suspicions of external influence and coercion. Despite assurances from senior members of the police authorities during the protest, it appears that justice may have been obstructed by powerful interests.

The bodies of both Asif Masih and Shan Masih were transported to their homes in Ghulam Muhammad Abad, where they were laid to rest in a local graveyard the following morning on March 18th.

In a gesture of compassion and support, a team from BACA journeyed to Faisalabad to offer solace to the grieving families during their time of anguish. Among them, our officer, Edward Masih, spent time praying with the families of Asif and Shan.

With tears streaming down her face, Chanda Bibi, Shan’s wife, poured out her heart to BACA, saying:

“He went to work because it was difficult to meet the financial needs of the family, but he did not return home. I don’t know how I will raise my children without him.”

Her words poignantly encapsulated the profound loss and uncertainty that now loomed over the lives of these bereaved families.

Both Asif and Shan were employees of WASA (Water and Sanitation Agency) Faisalabad, a government department known for its inadequate safety measures for its workers, leading to the tragic deaths of numerous employees during their duties. Asif Masih is survived by his wife Rukhsana Bibi (25 yrs) and two sons, Boez Asif (7 yrs) and Waaiz Asif (3 yrs). As the sole breadwinner for his family, Asif’s passing leaves a significant void in their lives. Shan Masih is survived by his wife Chanda (23 yrs), two sons, John Shan (7 yrs) and Saim Sham (5 yrs), and a daughter, Eman (4 yrs).

The families of both young men are now facing significant financial hardship, particularly in a patriarchal society like Pakistan’s, where the burden of providing for the family often falls heavily on the male breadwinner. British Asian Christian Association (BACA) recognizes the urgent need to support these families during this difficult time.

BACA has already taken steps to alleviate some of the financial strain by covering the funeral costs for both men. However, we aim to provide further assistance by raising funds to offer each family a bursary of £100 per month for 6 months. This will help them meet their immediate needs and alleviate some of the financial stress they are facing while they work towards finding a longer-term solution.

If you are moved by this account and wish to contribute to this cause, we kindly ask for your support. Your donations will make a meaningful difference in the lives of these grieving families. You can donate (here). Thank you for your generosity and compassion.

Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for British Asian Christian Association, said:

“The tragic deaths of Asif Masih and Shan Masih serve as a stark reminder of the grave consequences of neglecting basic safety measures in the workplace.

“These young men, like many before them, fell victim to the gross inadequacies of the system, where profit often takes precedence over the lives and well-being of workers.

“What makes this tragedy even more egregious is the blatant coercion and collusion that followed. The fact that authorities from WASA, the Faisalabad Police department, and the hall owner, Mian Muhammad Muratib, conspired to manipulate the course of justice is nothing short of reprehensible.

“Their actions not only betray a callous disregard for human life but also underscore the systemic failures that perpetuate injustice and impunity.

“As trustees of the British Asian Christian Association, we refuse to stand idly by in the face of such egregious injustice.

“We demand accountability from those responsible for the deaths of Asif and Shan. We call for comprehensive reform of workplace safety regulations to ensure that no more lives are needlessly lost due to negligence. 

“Our hearts go out to the families of Asif and Shan, who have been robbed of their loved ones by this senseless tragedy.

“We stand in solidarity with them as they seek justice and accountability. And we urge all those who share our outrage to join us in our fight for a more just and equitable society.“

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"Trial of Pakistani Christian Nation" By Nazir S Bhatti

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