Pakistan: Christians take to the streets to protest another mob attack over blasphemy

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
6 Min Read

Angry members of the Christian community took to the streets after a Muslim mob attacked a Christian community over alleged blasphemy in Punjab's Sargodha district, reports Union of Catholic Asian News.

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The incident took place on May 25 when an angry mob in Mujahid Colony in Sargodha in Pakistan's Punjab province beat up a Christian man, vandalised his house and set property on fire, accusing him of 'blasphemy'.

“We demand justice [Christian] “This tragic incident is happening again and again,” said Nosherwan Iqbal, chairman of the peace committee in the Hazara division of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

According to UCA News, Christians gathered in cities from Peshawar in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to southern Karachi in Sindh to protest a mob attack on two houses and a shoe factory in Punjab's Sargodha district.

Following the incident, over 400 unidentified suspects were charged with terrorism and other offences and 25 were arrested in Pakistan for attacking the Christian man and police officers in Sargodha district, around 200 km from Lahore, Dawn reported.

Christian factory owner Nazir Masih was accused of burning pages of the Quran in his residential area in Mujahid Colony and was attacked by a mob of over 400 people with sticks, bricks and stones.

“Our brother, who is a businessman, was the victim,” Iqbal told UCA News on May 26. “We are peace-loving people who are being pushed to our limits.”

The state government had registered the case under sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997 and the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

However, the police have also registered a blasphemy case against a Christian resident of Mujahid Colony, who was severely injured by the mob but survived the attempted murder. The case was registered against him based on a report by Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan activist Muhammad Jahangir.

Speaking to Dawn, a local resident said that burnt pages of the Holy Quran were found on the lid of a water pump near the house of a Christian man. However, no one saw him burning the pages. According to Dawn, the man's family is said to be humble and not associated with such activities.

On Saturday, a religious mob tried to lynch a Christian man. According to the case registered by Station House Officer (SHO) Shahid Iqbal, locals armed with sticks, stones and weapons gathered in front of the man's house and tried to break into the house.

Amid efforts by the police, Sargodha Peace Committee and other residents to resolve the situation through dialogue, the mob set fire to a shoe-making factory belonging to the man's son and attempted to enter his house from nearby rooftops.

The mob also destroyed the electric meter and AC installed outside the man's house and set it on fire.

The situation was brought under control after heavy police force reached the spot. SHO Iqbal and other police officials present at the spot rescued the person from the burning house.

However, as soon as they brought him out, the mob surrounded them, pelted stones and beat him with sticks, leaving the man seriously injured.

According to the FIR, some women were also involved in the violence. A case has been registered under several sections of the ATA and PPC, including attempt to murder, obstructing public servants in discharge of their duty, assaulting a public servant and destroying house with intent to cause death or hurt, causing mischief by fire or explosive material.

Following the incident, Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Anwar and Home Secretary Noorul Amin Mengal visited Sargodha and inspected the crime scene.

In response to the incident, provincial Minority Affairs Minister Ramesh Singh Arora took cognizance of the alleged blasphemy and contacted the Home Secretary of Punjab.

Security was tightened at churches across the district under the supervision of Sargodha District Police Officer Asad Ejaz Malhi and over 1,000 security personnel were deployed at churches on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Sargodha District Police Officer Asad Ejaz Malhi told Dawn that the incident was reportedly over sacrilege. He said police cordoned off two houses in the colony and “safely evacuated all residents.”

According to Dawn, unconfirmed footage on social media showed a crowd surrounding an injured man and separate videos showed men, some of whom appeared to be teenagers, breaking furniture outside a house.

When asked about the videos, DPO Malhi said these were “fake videos” and insisted that no one was hurt in Sargodha district. “The police are maintaining law and order,” he said.

More than 200 Christian families, half of them Catholic, fled Sargodha following another mob attack on blasphemy charges in August last year.

This is one of many incidents that highlight the dire situation faced by religious minorities in Pakistan, who continue to face threats of persecution and attacks.

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