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Pakistan: Christian worker dies after inhaling toxic gas

29 January 2018

A Pakistani Christian has died after inhaling poisonous gas.

Shahzad Masih, 24, who leaves a wife and two young children, worked as a sewer cleaner for the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board in the Korangi area of the southern city of Karachi. On 17 January his supervisor sent him to help unblock a drain in a nearby area.

“He became unconscious after he was sent down in the drain,” said his cousin Yousuf Masih. “We took him to the nearby Indus Hospital, but they told us that he had been placed on a ventilator and then was sent by ambulance to the Creek General Hospital, where he died on Saturday.”

He died on 20 January, after three days on a life-support machine.

Routine discrimination

Sadly Shahzad’s story is not uncommon. Most of Pakistan’s Christians face routine discrimination and are forced to work in what are considered menial or unclean jobs: sweepers, janitors and sewer cleaners. Data collected by World Watch Monitor in 2013 showed that, despite Pakistani Christians comprising only 1.5 per cent of the total population, they account for more than 80 per cent of the janitorial workforce.

Sewerage work is particularly hazardous, since the workers often work without protective gear. As well as suffering from routine chronic illness, hundreds of sewer workers have died while unblocking drains through the release of toxic gases.

In June last year, a Christian cleaner died after falling unconscious in a sewer. Appallingly, after he was taken to hospital, doctors refused to touch him because they were fasting and were not willing to touch a man smeared with sewage.

The incident caused an outrage and the Pakistan People’s Party, which is the ruling party in Sindh province (of which Karachi is the capital), announced one million rupees (roughly £7100) in compensation for the man’s family.

They are still waiting for the money.

’Irregluar employee’

Shahzad’s family moved to Karachi three years ago from Gujranwala in the Punjab region. They live in Nasir Colony, where there are a lot of Christians.

Although he worked for the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, he was classed as an ‘irregular employee’ - which means that he is not entitled to any compensation or privileges. Now his family have to find a way to look after Shahzad’s three-year-old son, Michael, and 18-month-old daughter, Neha.

The Karachi Water and Sewerage Board has promised Masih’s wife a job.

As a janitor, of course.

Please Pray

  • for Christians in Pakistan, that they would be treated with fairness and respect.
  • for the family of Shahzad Masih, that they would be supported and comforted.


In cooperation with local churches and other partnering ministries, Open Doors supports the church in Pakistan through:

  • Training (eg pastor's training, literacy training and vocational projects)
  • Emergency aid to victims of violent persecution
  • Women's ministry
  • Bible literacy
  • Counselling and trauma therapy.

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