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HomeNewsAsiaChristians in Pakistan protest yet another attack over blasphemy

Christians in Pakistan protest yet another attack over blasphemy

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) expresses solidarity to Christians protesting in Pakistan after the latest mob attack on a Christian family accused of blasphemy against the Quran in Sargodha, Punjab.

By Lisa Zengarini

Christians in Pakistan have taken to the streets across the Muslim-majority nation following yet another mob attack over false blasphemy accusations in the central Punjab province.

Uca news agency reported that from Peshawar city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to southern Karachi in Sindh, Christians gathered in large numbers this week-end to protest the attack on two houses and a shoe factory owned by a Christian family in Sargodha district in Punjab.

The attack in Sargodha 

The Christian factory owner, Mr. Nazil Gill Masih and his son were accused of having burnt pages of the Quran in their garbage in the residential area of the Gillwala Mujahid colony of  Sargodha and last week were attacked  by over  400 men armed with batons, bricks, and stones ransacking and burning their shops and homes.

Although twelve members of the family were able to escape, Mr. Masih was badly beaten and severely injured before police arrived and managed to remove him from the mob. He was rushed to hospital in a critical condition.

His son was also reportedly beaten and, according to the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), ransacking and fires continued after the attack, posing a grave threat to the safety and well-being of the local Christian community.

Over 400 people involved and 25 arrests

The Minorities Alliance Pakistan (MAP) demanded punishment for the perpetrators of violence. For its part ACN has joined in strongly condemning the incident, and has expressed its solidarity with the affected family and the whole Christian community in Pakistan. The police, meanwhile, ha registered cases against 450 unknown persons under an anti-terrorism law and 25 people have been arrested in connection with the attack.

Demonstrations across Pakistan 

At a demonstration in Peshawar, Christians declared May 25 as a “black day” and more than 500 protesters at the Faisalabad District Council Chowk in central Punjab blocked traffic for two hours and 20 women burned their head scarves in protest, Akmal Bhatti, a Catholic political leader and head of the MAP said.

In Karachi, Christians protested at the Press Club, demanding the dismissal of senior police officials. Video footage of the mob attack showed policemen doing nothing. However, the police have denied the claim.

According to Uca news, the Sargodha district administration has banned rallies and imposed Section 144, a colonial-era law that bans public gatherings, till May 31. Additional police have been deployed to maintain law and order. Father David John, parish priest of Divine Mercy Catholic church in Mujahid colony where the mob attack took place, said the situation is under control now. “Only a few families have returned though police have assured us of protection,” the priest added.

The abuse of blasphemy law vistimizing minorities

Blasphemy has been a capital crime in Pakistan since 1981 though no one has been executed by the government. However, in several cases, mobs take the matter into their own hands and lynch the suspects, and the draconian law introduced by the military government of General Zia-ul Haq is often misused for false accusations against Christians and other religious minorities to settle personal scores.

The attack in in Sargodha district comes just over nine months after the riots in Jaranwala, in the Faisalabad District of Punjab , that were sparked on 16 August 2023 by another false accusation of blasphemy, when rumours began to spread that a man and his son had disrespected the Quran by placing their photographs on its pages.

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