Pakistan Christian News

The Enduring Struggle: From 'Goat Life' to Real-Life Tragedy

A few months ago, my husband and I watched the movie Goat Life in a cinema. As native Urdu speakers, we struggled to fully grasp the dialogue, but thanks to our friends from Kerala, India, and the English subtitles, we managed to connect with the film. This movie, based on a true story from Kerala, India, stars Prithviraj Sukumaran, who delivers an outstanding performance as Najeeb. The narrative follows Najeeb's journey from an innocent village man seeking better opportunities in Arabia to a helpless shepherd, reflecting the harsh realities many face.

Najeeb's transformation and the brutality of his Arab owners, who strip him of his dignity, is heart-wrenching. This poignant depiction of human suffering was brought to mind recently by a real incident in Bhikki District, Sheikhupura, Pakistan. Shahid Rafaqat, a father of six, worked as a shepherd, caring for goats and livestock. On the night of May 7th-8th, his employers brutally beat him, broke his teeth and legs, and forced poison into his mouth. Shahid's body reacted violently, and despite his wife Sonia's efforts to save him, he succumbed to his injuries in a government-run hospital.

The police filed a First Information Report (FIR) for stolen livestock, but the landlords, Mr. Rana Nazar, Mr. Rana Ejaz, and Mr. Ramzan, later accused Shahid of theft, claiming this as their justification for the murder. The callousness of their actions and the lack of legal repercussions reflect a grim reality. Despite the absence of evidence proving Shahid's guilt, these landlords took the law into their own hands, ignoring that theft is not punishable by death in Pakistan. If such a precedent were set, the country would see a significant reduction in population and an increase in widows, particularly in areas like Nawabshah, Sindh, known for high crime rates.

Shahid, a hardworking and honest man from a minority community, faced unimaginable cruelty. His father rejected offers of hush money from the offenders, seeking only justice for his son. The family’s plea to the government for a fair trial underscores the desperate need for justice in such cases.

The story of Shahid Rafaqat highlights the fragility of human ambitions and the immense suffering that individuals endure in pursuit of a better life. His tragic death serves as a stark reminder of the inhumanity that persists in our world. Despite the efforts of those who strive to expose and combat such brutality, the perpetrators remain free, and Shahid's family continues to await justice.

In 2024, the life of a shepherd remains fraught with difficulties and inhuman treatment. The Crossway TV coverage of Shahid’s story raises concerns for the Christian community, many of whom work in similar conditions. These individuals, like Shahid, are at risk if thefts occur around them.

The tragic event in Sheikhupura bears a chilling resemblance to the narrative of Goat Life. In both stories, innocent men seeking better futures become victims of ruthless exploitation. In the film, Najeeb's ordeal as a shepherd under oppressive Arab employers is a harrowing tale of survival and degradation. Similarly, Shahid's experience reflects the harsh realities faced by many in Pakistan's rural and minority communities.

Shahid's death was not just a personal tragedy but a symbol of systemic injustice. His story echoes the broader issues of human rights violations, particularly against minority communities in Pakistan. The brutal treatment he endured and the subsequent denial of justice underscore the urgent need for legal reforms and stronger protections for vulnerable populations.

The landlords' actions reveal a deeper problem within the justice system, where power and influence often overshadow the rule of law. Shahid's family's rejection of hush money highlights their courage and determination to seek true justice, despite the threats and pressures they face. Their fight is not just for Shahid but for all those who suffer silently under similar circumstances.

The incident also sheds light on the dangerous working conditions and lack of legal protection for shepherds and other low-income workers in Pakistan. These individuals are often at the mercy of their employers, with little recourse in the face of abuse. Shahid's story is a call to action for the government and human rights organizations to address these issues and ensure that justice is served.

The life of a shepherd, as depicted in Goat Life and reflected in Shahid's real-life tragedy, remains perilous in 2024. Both stories highlight the ongoing struggles of marginalized communities and the need for systemic change to protect their rights and dignity.

Cynthia M.G. is a freelance writer.