No home for the ‘impure’ in Pakistan

The Lahore police just stood by on Saturday as violent mobs indiscriminately burned down at least 200 houses and 80 shops at a Christian inhabited locality in Punjab’s provincial capital after a Christian youth was accused of blasphemy the other day.

The mobs arrived at the Joseph Colony area in Badami Bagh police precincts around 10am in the morning and without wasting much time, set fire to almost all the houses in the locality. The small Christian community of the area had already been forced to flee the night before when the story of the alleged blasphemy charge surfaced.

According to details, Sawan Masih, 26, had been accused of blasphemy by a local barber Shahid Imran. An FIR was registered against the accused on the pressure of religious groups. Sawan was surrendered to the police late on Friday by a local NGO and has now been sent to prison on judicial remand.

Badami Bagh Station House Officer Hafiz Abdul Majid had admitted to Pakistan Today that the police had been forced to file an FIR against the accused to placate the angry mobs which were ready to burn down the houses amidst high tensions in the area.

Despite a heavy contingent of police present at the area to guard the locality, Christian residents were forced to flee overnight. The mobs, not to be swayed in their mission to purge the locality from “blasphemers”, turned up in the area early on Saturday and proceeded to wreak havoc on the community.

Muslim locals of the area told Pakistan Today that they had tried to stop the mobs, saying that they were setting fires to houses of innocent people.

“We tried to stop them but they wouldn’t listen. We have been living with these Christians for the last several years and there has been no religious animosity between us,” Mustafa Ahmed, who owns a tea stall in the area, told Pakistan Today.

Paying no heed to calls for calm, the mobs looted valuables, broke anything within arms length and burnt everything else to ashes. Two police officials, including the Station House Officer Hafiz Abdul Majid, sustained serious injuries when they tried to negotiate with the protesters. The enraged mobs also burnt down several motorcycles and some rickshaws parked in the streets.

Talking to Pakistan Today, Inspector Majid said that he had tried to placate the mobs but since his superiors had forbidden the police from exercising force, they had no choice but to stand down.

 

 

THE ‘CRIME SCENE’:

 

A visit to Joseph Colony presented the sight of a war-ravaged town, reminiscent of the destruction caused in the Gojra riots of 2009.

Talking to Pakistan Today, a visibly distraught citizen, Jehanzeb Masih said, “I have no idea what the Punjab government is doing. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has had poor record of safeguarding the rights of minorities in the country. Today’s targeting of our homes was one such example of the failure of the government to protect us.”

He said that the police contingents had remained on the sidelines, fingering their weapons, but not taking a single step forward to stop the violent mobs from destroying their homes.

He said that loot and plunder had been committed in the name of religion and the only people to have suffered were innocent bystanders.

Ijaz Masih, another resident, told Pakistan Today that certain individuals in the mob sawed off gas pipelines to ensure maximum damage to the houses.

“We are now forced to believe that this is not our country. Even if Sawan had committed the alleged blasphemy, why has the entire locality been subjected to such atrocity?”

Haroon Khokhar, a hapless father of four daughters, wept as he narrated to Pakistan Today how the raiders had forced their way into his house after breaking open four locks. “They took everything valuable that I possessed. They even took my daughters’ dowry that we have been collecting over the past several years. They also burned down my new rickshaw that I had bought just last week. I ask Shahbaz Sharif why he stopped the police from acting against the mobs,” he said.

 

 

ROLE OF CHRISTIAN NGOs:

 

The area’s residents were also critical of the role of some Christian non-government organisations such as CLAAS and Human Liberation Commission which, according to them, had only worked to worsen the situation.

“Joseph Francis of CLAAS, Salim and Aslam Sahotra used the incident for their vested interests. Sawan had initially been taken in by Salim and Aslam Sahotra who later handed him over to Joseph Francis. People close to the two groups told us that the latter had paid Rs 100,000 to them for Sawan’s custody. Francis then organised a photo session with the accused and around 2am on Saturday gave him in the custody of the Badami Bagh police,” a resident confided to Pakistan Today.

He said that the violence could have been prevented if Francis and the others had conveyed to the Muslims that Sawan had been handed over to the police. “They however chose to keep mum, which resulted in the massive damage to our homes. Loss of lives and property is good business for such NGOs. Now when we have lost everything they have the nerve to come to our neighbourhood again. It’s not just the Muslim extremists, there are black sheep within our community too.”

“Some NGO people retrieved burnt Bibles from the debris of houses and started raising a clamour that the mobs had desecrated the Christian holy book. They were literally pushing each other to get close to TV reporters…It is appalling that our homes and belongings have been destroyed yet these people are more concerned about burnt holy books and TV interviews,” he said, regretting that no Christian political leader had visited the locality since Friday evening to console them. “We are political orphans.”

 

‘I SAVED SAWAN’S LIFE’:

 

Reacting to the charge, Francis told Pakistan Today that he had not offered any money for Sawan’s custody. “I took him from his sister’s house. The locals are misinformed,” he said.

Francis said that he had presented Sawan to the police and had also conveyed to the area’s Muslims about his arrest. “The local Christians wanted to hand Sawan over to the police themselves but that would have surely led to his instant killing. I saved his life!”

Asked about the photo session with the accused, Francis readily agreed to email the photographs to the writer. “We will fight Sawan’s case because he is innocent,” he said, dodging a query on how several persecution cases handled by his organisation had been abandoned midway after the media hype died down.

Repeated attempts were made to contact Salim but he remained inaccessible.

 

PUNJAB GOVT MOVES:

 

As Joseph Colony simmered in smoke billowing from burnt furniture and crumbling roofs, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif held a press conference on Saturday evening, announcing Rs 200,000 compensation for each Christian family.

The CM said that the displaced Christians would be rehabilitated in their homes. He also announced a judicial enquiry into the incident, saying that the Punjab government is writing a letter to the Lahore High Court chief justice in this regard.

He said that the government would fulfill all its responsibilities regarding this tragic incident and the “mischievous elements” involved in this incident would be brought to justice.

The CM announced that SSP Sohail Sukhera and SP Multan Khan have been immediately made OSDs whereas the DSP and SHO of the area have been suspended.

Shahbaz also appreciated the police personnel for evacuating the Christians the night before, which he said had saved several lives.

“Rather than stopping the mobs from burning down the houses, the police watched the entire incident as bystanders and the CM has the audacity to praise them for ‘saving Christians’. What can we say but lament the fact that we are a minority governed by an indifferent people,” said a local Christian pastor.

 

With inputs by Rana Haider

Asher John

Writer is the former Chief News Editor of Pakistan Today and former Editor Quality, Daily Times. He can be reached at [email protected]



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40 Comments

  1. Waqas Aziz Mir said:

    shameful act … these ppl were humans with feelings…. i wonder where they are tonight or where will they live the rest of their lives ….. a very disturbing thought

  2. shahid said:

    Its really bad

    Pakistan is a country which is made in communal hatred..so don’t expect some thing better from them…

    First i thank allah for making me an indian and prays to give a open mind to my fellow brothers..

    • dar said:

      First, as an Indian, you have read the Indian version of 1947.

      Secondly, as a Muslim and a Pakistani, I am ashamed that such a thing has happened in my country.

  3. fiaz said:

    it is stated clearly in the koran. let there be no compulsion in the religion.

  4. Act Now said:

    Repeal this shameless blasphemy law now. It has no validity, it was instituted by a treasonous dictator Zia il Haq.!

    Uneducated justices of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, stop talking nonsense about the constitution. If you understood a word, you know full well that ALL laws enacted by dictators MuST stand repealed!
    Get your house in order, before the global community puts it in order for you and bring each and everyone of you ruling thugs to justice!

  5. khalid said:

    This fact is known to everyone that govt of the Punjab offers big support to terrorist organizations, the role of police as spectator must be seen in proper context. High time for minorities to seek immigration to civilized societies where every life has respect and dignity.

  6. Waqas Aziz Mir via F said:

    shameful act … these ppl were humans with feelings…. i wonder where they are tonight or where will they live the rest of their lives ….. a very disturbing thought

  7. Paul Tasker via Face said:

    Pakistan cannot seem to stop hitting the 'self-destruct' button can it? If the headline of this article is anything to go by then tens of thousands of Pakistanis ought to have no home in Pakistan. I imagine it would be extremely difficult to find many people who are, in fact 'pure' in Pakistan and whose minds are not infested with the Medieval mentality of religious bigotry and hatred.

  8. Arshad said:

    No burning homes, no killing of people in the name of religion please, no matter what the crime, there is law to handle it. Islam has already earned a bad name because of these barbarous acts which are totally anti Islam. Let not that stage come when honest Muslims themselves start to doubt their religion.

  9. Susie Greer said:

    A thought: how would the Muslims feel if Al Qeada set their homes on fire? So leave all religios of all belief to live as they choose. As they say: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. My saying is : a slap in the face of reality is another slap for realizing this to be true.
    Susie Greer, USA, Georgia
    Susie Greer, USA, Georgia

  10. Susie Greer said:

    So leave all religios of all belief to live as they choose. As they say: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. My saying is : a slap in the face of reality is another slap for realizing this to be true.
    Susie Greer, USA, Georgia
    Susie Greer, USA, Georgia

  11. Kevin said:

    It is best for all Christians in Pakistan to emigrate to predominately Christians countries like Canada or Scandinavian countries as they are very sympathetic to such asylum seekers.Don’t see any future in Pakistan for Christians. Christians will never be accepted as Pakistani first. So better be a refugee in a first world country

    • soos mum said:

      Kevin, why should the Christians leave their homes, they have probably been living there longer than any Muslim? Also, Scandanavia has too many Muslims living there causing hell for the Jews, they are being forced out of there. Sweden is virtually Judenfrei. In fact, they are causing problems for the citizens of that country, virtually all rapes in both Sweden and Denmark are by Muslims according to the police.

      What would be better (& unlikely) is that the UN starts sanctions to stop these abuses. Also, that financial support stops unless this is improved.

      But no-one cares about Christians in either Pakistan, any Middle Eastern country (they already chased Jews out), Indonesia, IndoChina or Africa. In fact, when they are abused in any European country, nothing is done by the authorities.

  12. aryan said:

    The Khadim AAla was sleeping when the houses were being burnt.

  13. hasi said:

    Kevin. It would have better if you had disclosed your your nationality. There are a quite large number of people whose houses have been burnt by drone attacks. they also need immigration

    • Jesus X -ive said:

      Mr. Hasi, exactly that is the reason that the minorities in Pakistan should emigrate from Pakistan to other countries because the majority here in Pakistan thinks exactly like yourself!

      I am assuming that this may come as a surprise to you for your skull is pretty thick, so let me just explain that point in some simple detail about the point that you are making. So the comment that you are making is "Yes it is justified to burn and pillage the homes of Pakistani minority citizens for whatever reason, if someone from another country bombs Pakistan. And that would be a tit for tat justified response"

      I rest my case at the alter of stupidity!

    • Guest said:

      So typical! Every time Muslims (mainly Sunnis) do harm to others – as a justification out comes the drone card. How pathetic!
      The event in Lahore was Pakistanis attacking Pakistanis for no reason at all. It was pure mob "justice" for personal gains, nothing else. The blasphemy law and the religious sentiments involved are being instrumentalised by some for their own personal reasons and sheepisly followed by others who have no brain of their own.
      And why do you ask Kevin about his nationality? Are in your opinion only Pakistanis allowed to comment? … but not all Pakistanis, come to think of it! Only the pure will do, right!

    • Love God said:

      Drone attacks were not done in the name of religion. And why attack Christians who teach and are taught even to love their enemies!

  14. Arshad said:

    @hasi
    What has drone attack to do here. Did the Christians whose homes were burnt make the drone attacks? Instead of admitting the reality we start diverting the issue, that is why problems don't get solved.

  15. Nazia said:

    The targets of this attacks are either to vacate this commercial land or trying to hit the vote bank of previous party won from this area.Blasphemy drama is just created to spread the already planned arsenal on this area..

  16. Tired Of Malsi said:

    Your shame and terrible oppression of non muslims in your community is noted. As you stand idle and let your brothers murder, rape, rob and burn those weaker than you.

    Pause for thought. How will your Grandchildren view your actions when they look back in 50yrs, When they are shamed across the globe for being Pakistani and Muslim forever tarnished with 7th century idiology of mob violence and religious hatred.

    In the last 10yrs people in 1st world have tried to reach out and contain your barbarity. Soon we will have two choices reject you as persona non grata or strike out

    • Nestor said:

      Given the historical accuracy of most dictatorships those grand children will never know.

  17. Eddied said:

    Pakistan barbarians embarrass there country once again…it is amazing that in the 21st century there are still places that want to act like it is the 7th century…have you learned nothing?

  18. shab said:

    We can all thank Zia-ul-Haq, the laws he made and the religious framework of intolerance he put in place is beginning to burn this country, and this is not the end.

  19. imran bhatt said:

    According to Taliban apologists and particularly IMran Khan, Taliban are right to commit violence as a reaction of drone attacks. That means same logic would allow Shias, Ahmedis, Christians and all other minority groups in Pakistan to take up arms against their killers.

  20. SHAHID said:

    It once again has happened so that our beloved Chief Minister & Co have been caught off guarded. This is not first time in Shabaz Sharif’s rule in Punjab that Christians have specifically been targeted in broad day light on such a large scale. In Sialkot and Smbrial also the poor none muslims had to go through a situation like this before. But there was
    absolutely no initiative from this inept GOvt. at all to prevent any such thing from happening again. There is always a
    strong worded Every time any such thing happens CM is found asleep.

    There is mere a statement, which has little importance now. The lip service hardly matters in ever worsening law and order situation in Punjab.

    Shockingly Chief Justice, who never misses a chance of rebuking to CMs and even PM if any such thing happens outside
    Punjab, remains silent, cementing this perception that there is an undeclared agreement between the two.

    SHAHID HUSSEIN QABOOLPURIA,
    LAHORE, PAKISTAN

    Result of this failure is that

  21. Genesis said:

    This is the problem with all monotheistic and Semitic based religions.they are convinced they have the truth and the others are impure.The polytheists are liberal,broadminded and accept other beleifs and allow others and their way of life.

    • Cynthia said:

      Are you implicating Judaism in your criticism of 'all' monotheistic and Semitic based religions? I smell a Jew-hater!

    • Nestor said:

      And they treat the lower casts ever so well. (sarcasm)

  22. Pakistani said:

    If this Chief Minister is sincere the culprits can be caught and punished.But it is he who encourages such acts.Let him know what we think of him by voting for his opponent be he from any Party.No one will be punished and persons caught will be set free by our courts as long as PML N is in power or for that matter even PPP.Both are criminally guilty of exposing people to criminal gangs while living themselves in bunkers and travelling in cardon of police meant for the citizens of Pakistan.Time has come to pay back.Vote them out for good and then see the change. Bury them off politically once for all NOW.

  23. Maya said:

    I know there is a minority of muslims who can neither commit nor endorse such acts, but i think that i am not wrong to say that the muslims who did that understood this verse from the Quran ;””O you who believe! Fight those of the
    unbelievers who are near to you
    and let them find in you hardness.”
    (Qur’an 9:123)

  24. soos mum said:

    From the Religion of Peace

    The Quran contains at least 109 verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule. Some are quite graphic, with commands to chop off heads and fingers and kill infidels wherever they may be hiding. Muslims who do not join the fight are called 'hypocrites' and warned that Allah will send them to Hell if they do not join the slaughter.

    Unlike nearly all of the Old Testament verses of violence, the verses of violence in the Quran are mostly open-ended, meaning that they are not restrained by the historical context of the surrounding text. They are part of the eternal, unchanging word of Allah, and just as relevant or subjective as anything else in the Quran.

    Most of today's Muslims exercise a personal choice to interpret their holy book's many calls to violence according to what their own moral preconceptions find justificable. Apologists cater to their preferences with tenuous arguments that gloss over historical fact and generally do not stand up to scrutiny. Still, it is important to note that the problem is not bad people, but bad ideology.

    Unfortunately, there are very few verses of tolerance and peace to abrogate or even balance out the many that call for nonbelievers to be fought and subdued until they either accept humiliation, convert to Islam, or are killed. Muhammad's own martial legacy – and that of his companions – along with the remarkable stress on violence found in the Quran have produced a trail of blood and tears across world history.

  25. zoolady said:

    Soos Mum is correct….it’s pointless to blame ancient leaders, imams and politicians when the texts on which Islam is based DEMAND murder, stonings, amputations and beheadings of infidels!

    It’s a hateful cult which supports primitive behavior, excuses the worst possible human impulses and will never be satisfied until it’s either reformed or eliminated.

  26. Gerrie said:

    This is truly sad. I pray that Jesus holds every one of the affected persons in his arms. I really hope that Islam violence will stop. Jesus has already forgiven all these Islam people that has done wrong to the Christians, that is my Lord, a Lord of peace and unity exactly what the world needs right now (it is called unfair mercy, mercy for those who do not actually deserve it). I speak peace over Pakistan and its people in the name of Jesus Christ. Love to all the brothers and sisters.

  27. intisar said:

    Prophet of Islam's life is an example of mercy and compassion. After years of persecution by inhabitants of Mecca, when it fell, Muhammad forgave all of them, even the ones who had done utmost savagary to his kins. Quran defined the laws of war (just like UN adopted and defined similar laws in contemporary history) in an era when there were no laws.

  28. Pastor Mathew said:

    Just as I was saddened to read of the terrible atrocity in Joseph Colony, I am also filled with good hope when I read the comments of so many Pakistanis, both Christian and Muslim, who refuse to condone such violence, or to use this tragedy to engage in political point scoring. We pray for, and are deeply moved for, the people of Joseph Colony. We pray for all Pakistan's people whatever their religious views. There is only one God, may he give you peace and hope and a safe future for all your children.

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