Liaqat Masih, who worked as the driver for Raza Hameed, the son of Gujranwala politician S.A Hameed, was arrested on 15 November 2015 following accusations of theft. Although Raza Hameed had initially lodged the complaint against unknown perpetrators, he later registered a case against Liaqat Masih after becoming suspicious of him. The police arrested Masih’s son Khurram Sunil on 27 December 2015.
Masih was held in judicial remand at Gujuranwala police station without evidence or trial until 10 January 2016, when the police claimed that they had new evidence which allowed them to proceed with his case. His family was uncertain of his location for four days before they heard that he was being held in a private torture cell in Gujranwala Cantt police station.
On 8 January, Khurram Sunil was released on bail until 19 January, however he was rearrested on 10 January and named as an accomplice in the theft.
Liaquat Masih died in police custody on 14 January. Although the police postmortem states that he died of a heart attack, his son claims that his father was brutally beaten on the night that he died and sustained fatal injuries after being hung upside down by a rope.
The police released Liaquat Masih’s body to his family on 15 January but withheld a copy of the autopsy. His family claims that the 24-hour delay gave the police time to remove evidence of torture, prompting a public protest from Masih’s brother and a number of other Christians, who were later dispersed violently by the police.
Liaquat Masih’s death is part of a pattern of extrajudicial killings of Christians, who are routinely discriminated against in Pakistan.
In a statement, Michelle Chaudhry President of the Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF) said: “We at CICF stand in unanimity with the bereaved family of Liaqat Masih, who died under mysterious circumstances while in police custody. We cannot accept the claims made by the police that Liaqat Masih died of a heart attack, unless an independent inquiry into the incident is carried out, along with a third-party post-mortem at a private hospital in order to bring the facts to light.”