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Christian teen in Pakistan dies after being beaten by police

(Reuters/Mohsin Raza)Members of the Pakistani Christian community carry wooden crosses and a casket during a demonstration to condemn the death of a Christian couple in a village in Punjab province on Tuesday, in Lahore November 5, 2014.

A 14-year-old Pakistani Christian boy has died after receiving a severe beating from the police because he had gotten into a fight with a Muslim classmate several months ago.

Arsalan Masih, a student at a private center in Jhabran, Mandi village, in Punjab province, was attending a class on Oct. 9 when seven police officers suddenly dragged him out of the classroom and beat him to death.

"Arsalan was attending his tuition classes at the Ideal Science Academy when Head Constable Imtiaz, Driver Rashid, Constable Arshad and some other unidentified policemen kicked open the door and dragged him out of the classroom," the boy's father, Mushtaq Masih, told Morning Star News.

"Sardar, alias Billu, a police constable, helped them to identify the boy. With this, they all started beating Arsalan with fists, kicks and rifle butts," he continued.

The father noted that the teacher tried to stop the assault, but the police officers shoved and slapped him, and continued beating Arsalan.

"Rashid struck Arsalan's head with a pistol, and he started bleeding. When they bundled him into the police van, Arsalan collapsed and died. Later the police team threw Arsalan's body on the roadside and fled," Mushtaq narrated.

Mushtaq, a member of the Presbyterian Church in Pakistan, noted that his son got into a fight with a Muslim classmate who tried to bully him into renouncing his faith. The fight took place four months ago, but Mushtaq said he did not hear about it until recently.

The father noted that Arsalan's classmate was the nephew of Sardar alias Billu, who is a constable in the Sheikhupura District police.

"Billu nurtured a grudge against Arsalan, and that's why he brought his police friends with him to teach the poor boy a lesson," Mushtaq said.

Mushtaq said that a case has been filed against the seven police officers, but no arrests have been made as of writing.

Sheikhupura Superintendent of Police Sarfraz Virk told Morning Star News that he had already ordered the registration of the case against the accused policemen.

An attorney with the Pakistan Center for Law and Justice (PCLJ), which has taken up the case, claimed that the police were initially reluctant to register a First Information Report (FIR) against the accused.

PCLJ Attorney Kashif Naimat noted that the police only registered the FIR after the family and several other Christians blocked the main highway for several hours in protest.

Another Christian teenager was beaten to death in August by his classmates because he had drunk water from a glass used by all students, an act many Muslims hold in disdain as they regard Christians as "unclean."

Sharoon Masih, 17, was only on his fourth day at school when he was attacked by his fellow students. Early reports have suggested that the teacher overseeing the classroom ignored the attack. But the teacher has since claimed that he was reading a newspaper and did not notice that one of his students was being beaten to death.

The head teacher later stated that the incident occurred between classroom sessions and that one teacher arrived late, allowing the beatings to take place without notice.

Christian rights activists said that the latest killing is an indication that religious intolerance was seeping into all sections of society, including government departments.

Rufus Solomon, a leading Christian rights advocate, said that it is highly likely that the police will favor their colleagues even though there were numerous witnesses to the murder of the Christian boy.

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