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By Amy Penn

06/27/2017 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – After jumping into a manhole to rescue coworkers exposed to a toxic gas in Pakistan’s sewage system, Irfan Masih himself breathed the fumes and passed out. Following a frantic rush to the hospital in Umerkot, Irfan, a Christian sanitation worker, lay unconscious and dying in a waiting room as his family and friends desperately petitioned doctors for help. Three doctors refused to touch Irfan because he was covered in sewage and was, thus, unclean. The Muslim doctors contended that touching Irfan would ultimately violate their Ramadan fast. As Irfan’s brother washed his brother’s body, doctors sent an oxygen tank to the waiting room, but the tank was empty. Unfortunately, as hospital staff continued to flounder, Irfan died.

Sixteen of Irfan’s family and friends who were at the hospital immediately registered a first information report (FIR) against the three doctors, the city’s waste management department, and the “Talka” Municipal Authority for their negligence which led to Irfan’s death. While an investigation and conviction will not bring Irfan back, it would set a precedent against religious discrimination in the medical field.

Almost immediately after Nazir Masih, one of the 16 Christians, registered the FIR, the hospital filed a counter-FIR, accusing Irfan’s friends and family of damaging hospital equipment and interfering with official proceedings in the hospital.

Rather than conducting a full, impartial investigation of the incident and FIRs, the police are now searching for the Christians to arrest. A local source told International Christian Concern (ICC), “None of the doctors nominated in the FIR namely Dr. Jaam Kunbhar, Dr. Yousuf and Dr. Allah Dad Rathore were arrested, however police are searching to arrest 16 Christians, including the deceased’s brother.

Taj Muhammad Khan Qaimkhani, the Christians’ defense lawyer, told ICC, “Registering a counter-FIR against the victimized Christian community by the high-ranking people of the majority community is sign of forcing [the Christians] to ‘compromise’ which should be called ‘double victimization’…and is condemnable.

Khan continued, “Legally and technically, the counter-FIR against the Christian victims [condones the] medical staff’s maltreatment of Irfan Masih. It is indeed a systematic discrimination with the Christian community.

The police officers’ hunt for Irfan’s friends and family has created chaos and turmoil for the Christian community of Umerkot. The Vicar General of the Hyderabad diocese, Father Sabir Sadiq, told ICC, “The immediate family of the deceased and the Christian community is under fear of being attacked and therefore pressurized to withdraw the case against the Muslim doctors.

Father Sadiq continued, “The Christians are facing discrimination, [including] losing their jobs and being kicked out from [their homes], if they don’t compromise with the hospital management and ‘forgive’ the doctors for [the] killing of Irfan Masih.

In Pakistan, Christian sanitary workers are considered some of the lowest members of society and thus untouchable by Pakistan’s Muslim majority. Pakistan often reserves the worst jobs, like sanitation, for Christians which creates additional social discrimination because of their employment in addition to their religious identity, leading to a significant gulf in social power between Pakistan’s Muslim and Christian communities.