Sweeping Away Injustice: Asif Masih’s Bold Stand Against Brutality, Injustice, and Bigotry for Sweepers’ Rights


Pakistan: (By Hannah Chowdhry and Juliet Chowdhry) A Christian sweeper, duly elected as Chairman of the All Sweepers Union, faced brutal assaults both within his supervisor’s office and outside a court premises.These attacks were fueled by the exposure of highly illicit and corrupt practices orchestrated by the supervisor, who illicitly engaged ghost employees to siphon funds from the government. Despite the police being direct witnesses to the violence, which has been captured on multiple videos, and their awareness of the widespread corruption, no arrests have been made.

This failure to act only emboldens the villain of this narrative, who happens to be the nephew of a Member of Provincial Parliament, and intensifies the threats against the Christian leader and numerous sweepers who stand against such malfeasance.

On March 19th 2024, a distressing video circulated across social media, depicting a harrowing incident at the Sessions Court in Gujranwala involving a Christian individual named Asif Masih. He was subjected to a brutal assault by Muhammad Zain-ul-Abideen and his accomplices, amidst the presence of law enforcement officers. The assault unfolded with Mr. Masih enduring vicious punches to his face and body. It’s worth noting that Mr. Masih was present at the court for a hearing regarding labor-related matters at the Labor Court in Gujranwala.

This appalling attack stemmed from a confrontation between Mr. Masih and Mr. Zain ul Abideen, originating from Mr. Masih’s advocacy for the reinstatement of 27 Christian sweepers who were unfairly terminated from their daily wage jobs. These workers were under the employ of Zain ul Abideen, who serves as the operations manager at Solid Waste Management Gujranwala.

Mr. Asif Masih, the duly elected President of the All Sweepers Union within the Municipal Corporation of Gujranwala, uncovered a disturbing scheme orchestrated by Muhammad Zain Ul Abideen. It came to Mr. Masih’s attention that Mr. Zain Ul Abideen had fabricated employment contracts, replacing 36 Christian sweepers with Muslim individuals who never actually fulfilled their job duties. These “ghost employees” went as far as to register their presence through biometric systems without ever contributing to the workforce. Despite this, they received regular salaries via bank transfers, revealing a glaring instance of corruption.

The burden of this deceit fell heavily upon the Christian sweepers, who were coerced into overcompensating for the absentees, under the threat of termination if they dared to resist. Haroon Masih, a colleague of Mr. Asif Masih, shed light on the appalling treatment they endured. According to Haroon Masih, Muslim supervisors issued ultimatums, warning that refusal to undertake additional responsibilities would result in job termination.

Faced with the exploitation and suffering of his fellow workers, Mr. Asif Masih took decisive action. On March 11th, he courageously confronted Mr. Zain Ul Abideen at his office to address the injustice. However, his attempt at resolution was met with violence. Mr. Masih endured a vicious assault, sustaining bruises across his torso, arms, and legs, as well as severe injuries to his lips, inflicted by relentless kicking and punching even after he had fallen to the ground.

In his formal complaint lodged at the Civil Lines Police Station in Gujranwala, Mr. Asif Masih detailed the events surrounding his visit to the office of Zain Ul Abideen and the subsequent attack he endured. Mr. Masih asserted that during the altercation, Mr. Zain Ul Abideen directed derogatory slurs towards him, including the deeply offensive term “Chura,” which is commonly used as a derogatory slur against Christians in Pakistan and refers to a low caste. According to Mr. Masih’s account, the assault involved six to seven individuals acting in coordination with Mr. Zain Ul Abideen. Following the attack, Mr. Masih sought medical assistance and obtained a medico-legal certificate, which he promptly provided to the authorities to aid in their investigation. Despite Mr. Masih’s efforts to seek justice, the police initially refrained from registering the incident as a crime.

Haroon Masih, in a subsequent discussion with BACA, further elaborated on the underlying dynamics at play. He emphasized that Zain Ul Abideen and his associates harbored deep-seated animosity towards the idea of a Christian serving as the president of the All Sweepers Union. According to Haroon Masih, ‘the election of a Christian leader was a collective decision aimed at safeguarding the rights and interests of Christian sweepers, who face systemic discrimination and marginalization. However, despite these efforts to assert their rights, discrimination against Christian sweepers persists unabated’.

“Mr. Masih has displayed remarkable courage, and it is our fervent hope that shedding light on this issue will put an end to the prevailing corruption and bigotry, ultimately leading to the reinstatement of the unfortunate Christians who were unjustly removed from their positions.”

Seeking recourse through legal channels, Mr. Masih turned to the Labour Court and filed an application for the reinstatement of the Christian workers. However, on the 19th of March, as he arrived to attend the hearing, he was once again subjected to an attack, this time outside the main door of the Labour Court in Gujranwala, perpetrated by Zain Ul Abideen and his cohorts. Fortunately, the police intervened on this occasion, rescuing Mr. Masih and his solicitor, and escorting them to safety.

Following this incident, officers from the police station took action by issuing an FIR (First Information Report) under sections 382, 147, and 149 of the Pakistan Penal Code, vide No. 509/24, against Zain Ul Abideen and his accomplices. Despite the compelling evidence of physical violence inflicted upon Mr. Masih, including eyewitness testimonies from attending police personnel, the authorities have thus far failed to apprehend any of the perpetrators.

Mr. Masih’s situation has escalated to a grave level, with severe threats looming over his life. His apprehension is further compounded by the ominous possibility of Mr. Zain-ul-Abideen fabricating a blasphemy case against him, a tactic commonly employed to silence dissent, despite Mr. Masih’s unequivocal innocence. Adding to his concerns is Mr. Zain Ul Abideen’s familial connection to a Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA), Muhammad Taufeeq Butt, which raises the specter of political influence being leveraged against him.

In response to these imminent dangers, Mr. Asif Masih and his colleagues staged a peaceful protest in front of the Press Club in Lahore on the 21st of March at 3:33 pm. Understanding the importance of solidarity, Haroon Masih reached out to our operations manager, urging their participation in this crucial demonstration of support for Mr. Masih and the larger cause of justice and equality.  The event was attended by both Edward Masih and our Operations Manager in solidarity with the brave Christian leaders and sweepers who are standing up to a phenomenal injustice.

The British Asian Christian Association has been called upon to provide legal advocacy in support of Mr. Masih and the numerous sweepers impacted by this egregious and corrupt employment scandal. These individuals are confronted with significant opposition, particularly from the uncle of Mr. Zain-ul-Abideen, who has resorted to threats of violence against any who dare to raise their voices against the injustice. To aid these courageous yet vulnerable Christians, we aim to raise £1500. Your support will empower us to stand with them in their time of need. Donate today to make a difference (here).

Juliet Chowdhry, Trustee for the British Asian Christian Association, expressed her profound dismay at the appalling depths of corruption evident in this case.

“This is one of the most egregious instances of corruption that I have encountered during my tenure with BACA,” she stated. “It not only involves financial malfeasance but also flagrant violations of employment law and anti-slavery statutes, accompanied by shocking levels of violence and intimidation.”

Mrs. Chowdhry continued, “What is even more distressing is the fact that these threats originate from a prominent politician in Pakistan, wielding immense influence. This paints a stark picture of just how far Pakistan has regressed in terms of upholding fundamental human rights.”

She concluded with a note of profound indignation, saying, “It sickens me to witness that in this day and age, individuals from majority communities can regard minority individuals as nothing more than expendable commodities to be exploited at will.”

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