Christian Farmers and Family Endure Brutal Attack and Kidnapping in Land Seizure Attempt

In Toba Tek Singh, a distressing conflict erupted over agricultural land, leading to the violent assault of a Christian farming family by a group led by influential locals, Khawar Ali and Baber Ali. On April 16, 2024, at Chak 694/36 GB, approximately 50 assailants stormed the fields owned by the Yousaf family, not only harvesting the wheat but also physically assaulting the family members, leaving them with severe injuries.

Shahnaz Yousaf, a daughter of Yousaf the farmer, recounted the brutal episode to Pak Christian News (PCN), detailing how the attackers, armed with crop-harvesting machinery, descended upon their fields in the early hours. While some assailants harvested the wheat, others physically assaulted her and her siblings, including her three brothers Ashraf, Riaz, and Ilyas Yousaf, and her widow sister Bushra Iqbal. The attackers inflicted severe injuries, breaking limbs and noses, and even snatched mobile phones from those trying to document the attack.

The Yousaf family's roots in this land trace back to 1989 when Ashraf Masih's father, Yousaf Nawaz Masih, was allotted 77 canals of barren land under a government rehabilitation scheme. Over the years, the family invested considerable effort and financial resources to transform this barren land into fertile farmland. Despite having fulfilled their obligations and continuously paying the due amounts to the government, they faced violent opposition from influential local figures, Khawar Ali and Baber Ali, who orchestrated the attack with alleged police collusion.

Ashraf Masih recounted a disheartening interaction at the local police station, where the officer on duty dismissed their plight, indicating the land would never be theirs despite legal entitlements. Furthermore, he expressed that the police, along with Khawar Ali and Baber Ali, have a history of forcibly occupying lands belonging to innocent farmers.

The medical plight of the family compounds their troubles, as they faced obstacles in obtaining medical reports from the local DHQ hospital, raising concerns about potential tampering by the aggressors. Financially drained from the loss of their crops and ongoing medical expenses, the family is now in a precarious position, with the local police reportedly offering little to no assistance.

The conflict escalated earlier in the year when Khawar Ali allegedly kidnapped Shahnaz Yousaf just days before the elections in February 2024, using her as leverage to coerce the family into abandoning their land claims. Although she was returned after several hours following interventions by local leaders, the threat to their safety and rights persists.

Currently, the family's legal battle continues as their case is under consideration in the high court. Despite possessing a stay order that acknowledges their right to cultivate the land, local police at the Aroti Station in Toba Tek Singh have reportedly disregarded this court mandate.

In an urgent plea, the Yousaf family is calling for support from the Christian community and intervention by government officials, including the Chief Minister of Punjab, to address their grievances and ensure the return of their land and crops. This case highlights the ongoing challenges faced by minority communities in rural Pakistan, where legal rights are often overshadowed by might and corruption.