Religious hatred motivated murder of 20-year-old Christian, says father

Farhan Ul Qamar was killed in Talwandi Inayat Khan village, Pakistan on Nov. 9, 2023.(Photo: Morning Star News)

The father of a 20-year-old Christian who was gunned down in Pakistan this month said the confessed killer was driven by a strong hatred for Christians and Jews.

Farhan Ul Qamar was shot to death in his house in Talwandi Inayat Khan village, Pasrur tehsil of Sialkot District, Punjab Province, in the presence of other family members on Nov. 9. The slain Christian's father, Noor Ul Qamar, said the killer, Muhammad Zubair, showed hatred for Christians and Jews, mistakenly referring to the family as Jews as he ranted at them.

Ul Qamar said he was unsure why Zubair targeted his son in particular, though the killer and Farhan Ul Qamar had had a minor argument the previous day. Attacking at 3 a.m. on Nov. 9, Zubair held the family hostage at gunpoint for nearly 40 minutes, refusing to let them go near their fatally injured son, Ul Qamar said.

"My son was struggling for his life, bleeding profusely from the bullet wounds, but his murderer, Muhammad Zubair, did not allow us to even give him some water, let alone comfort him," Ul Qamar told Morning Star News. "He repeatedly called us 'Jews' as he cursed and waved his weapon at us. We all watched helplessly, pleading with him to leave, but he wouldn't go."

Eventually Zubair told him to go to the roof and stay there until he was gone, Ul Qamar said.

"As I was going, Zubair pointed the gun towards my wife and ordered her to unlock the main gate," he said. "He sat on his motorcycle that was parked outside, fired three shots in the air with his pistol, and shouted, 'Allahu Akbar [God is greater]' two-three times before speeding away."

The grieving father said that as soon as Zubair left, the family gathered around his blood-soaked son and started screaming for help.

"None of our neighbors intervened even after they heard the first three shots fired on Farhan by Zubair," Ul Qamar said. "No one came outside of their homes when he was leaving ... everyone feared him."

He said that his son breathed his last en route to the hospital.

"Doctors said they could have made an effort to save his life if we had brought him there in time," Ul Qamar told Morning Star News.

Zubair had never hidden his hatred for Christians, but his behavior worsened after the Israeli-Palestinian conflict erupted into war in Gaza last month, Ul Qamar said. Several Christian families fled the village after Muslims beat two Christian brothers, Aqib Javed and Asher Javed, for reportedly expressing support for Israel.

"Some five-six Christian boys, including Aqib and Asher, have left the village because they are fearful of being targeted again by extremist elements," Ul Qamar said, adding that their whereabouts were unknown.

He said the family had decided not to disclose these details earlier because they feared backlash from local Muslims.

"We have been keeping quiet because we did not want the religious leaders to think that we are giving our son's murder a 'religious color,' but this is the truth," Ul Qamar said.

His other son, Shahan Ul Qamar, previously told Morning Star News that his brother had had a minor altercation with Zubair on Nov. 8.

The deceased's father said that after killing Farhan Ul Qamar, Zubair went home, where police found him sleeping peacefully in his bed.

"An officer told me that during interrogation, Zubair said that he had mistakenly come to our house and killed Farhan thinking that he was killing Aqib or Asher Javed," Ul Qamar said. "But this is a lie, because Zubair called Farhan by his name before opening fire on him. He also kept saying his name when he was trying to break the door of our room. It was premeditated murder."

The victim's father said the investigators had not formally shared their findings with the family.

"The police formally registered Zubair's arrest, and a court granted them his four-day physical remand, which ended on Thursday," he said. "I have no other information at this point."

Morning Star News made repeated attempts to contact the investigating officer of the case, but he could not be reached.

Asked to confirm reports of threats and pressure on the family regarding the case, Ul Qamar said no one had directly threatened them yet, but that village sources had warned him to beware of the suspect's family and accomplices.

"I think they are sending us indirect messages to scare us, but we are determined to find justice for our beloved son," he said. His voice breaking with grief, he added, "Farhan was a handsome boy and loved education. He was enrolled in a four-year medical technician program and was very excited to join the health sector after graduation, but all our dreams have been shattered by Zubair in front of our eyes."

Farhan Ul Qamar was the youngest of four children.

The family has no resources to engage a reputable lawyer and appealed for help from legal aid groups and Christian organizations.

"We want to see Farhan's killer punished in accordance with the law," Ul Qamar said. "If we are unable to find good legal representation, I fear the murderer will be let off, and then no Christian will be safe in this village. Please help us."

Living among 20-25 other Christian families in the village, Ul Qamar's family has resided in the area for generations, often facing religious bias and discrimination.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors' 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

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