It all started when a man accused a Christian of committing blasphemy by making offensive comments about the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and defiling pages from the Holy Quran and all of a sudden a mob comprising thousands of people attacked Joseph Colony forcing families to flee their area. It is a new attempt to further tarnish the image of Pakistan.
|Pakistani Christians protest against Saturday’s burning of their houses and belongings in Badami Bagh, Lahore March 10, 2013. Hundreds of Pakistani Christians took to the streets across the country on Sunday, demanding better protection after a Christian neighbourhood was torched in the city of Lahore a day earlier in connection with the country’s controversial anti-blasphemy law|
The burning of about 125 houses of the Christian community in Lahore’s Badami Bagh area by a mob gone berserk on Saturday led to all citizens of this land of the pure hang their heads in shame on yet another occasion. Those who did the burning showed extreme intolerance against an accusation of blasphemy that was yet to be probed. The allegation was the commission of the said crime allegedly committed by a resident of the area.
The grotesque event can be mentioned as yet another incident of victimizing members of non-Muslim minorities who are fellow citizens and the country’s basic law holds them in equality with the Muslim population. The reaction to the horrendous happening was prompt and logical as members of the Christian community and those belonging to other non-Muslim minorities, together with conscientious citizens, took to streets across the country seeking justice. Protest rallies were held in many parts of the country, including Karachi, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Lahore, where protestors blocked Ferozepur Road and several other main roads. Some enraged demonstrators resorted to stone pelting and broke the windows of buses and stands of the recently-launched Metro Bus Service in Lahore. Police also fired aerial shots to disperse the mob but to no avail.
This is not the first ghastly incident of its kind that vulnerable members of Christian community have been targeted. The first attack on the Christian village Shantinagar near Khnewal took place in February 1997 during which four churches and the office of the Salvation Army was burnt along with about 800 Christian houses while about 200 members of this community were forced to leave the village. In August 2009, a similar mob attacked a village of Christians in Gojra near Faisalabad and killed nine non-Muslim residents, six of whom were burnt alive, together with burning about 200 homes and a church. In both these events also the allegation of blasphemy was provoked.
An initial investigation report over the incident was submitted by Punjab’s Inspector General of police to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Sunday according to which timely action by the police had prevented the loss of life. The report said that there were only a handful of people behind the incident and the policemen avoided the use of gunfire and other lethal weapons in order to minimize the loss of life. At least 131 persons were taken into custody who were suspected of involvement in Saturday’s gruesome incident whereas a letter was written to the Lahore High Court’s registrar requesting for a judicial inquiry into the incident. The chief minister was informed that those involved in the incident were being identified with the help of CCTV footage of the attack. Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf ordered for the provision complete assistance to all victims belonging to the minority community. The prime minister spoke to Minister of State for National Harmony Akram Masih and advisor Paul Bhatti and instructed them to maintain contact with the victims of the Badami Bagh incident. Construction material and other related equipment began to arrive in Badami Bagh area on Sunday for the rehabilitation of the destroyed neighbourhood.
In the instant case also, police, instead of investigating the case, arrested Christians while those who went on a rampage and could easily be identified from television footage were not taken in custody. This is sheer discrimination among sections of Pakistani citizens and must, therefore, be probed by the judiciary.
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