KARACHI, March 9: Protest demonstrations broke out in different parts of the city against Lahore’s Badami Bagh incident, which witnessed angry mobs set ablaze more than 100 houses of Christians over an alleged blasphemy row, as protesters chanted slogans condemning the violence and the administration’s failure to check the mayhem.
Dozens of charged youths took to the streets in different areas and blocked the main roads, causing serious traffic jams. A few brief and violent episodes were also witnessed during the protest demonstrations when charged protesters threw stones at moving vehicles on Shah Muhammad Suleman Road near Essa Nagri.
“Protest demonstrations were held at Essa Nagri, near Hassan Square, Nursery and the airport bus stop on Sharea Faisal,” said an official at the traffic inquiry 915. “The situation caused a traffic jam. The deployment of traffic police was increased at these points which helped ease the traffic congestion.”
The Lahore incident attracted anger from minority leaders and serious criticism from human rights bodies, which condemned the violence and expressed fear of escalation of the brutal trend.
A large number of Christians attended a protest demonstration held in front of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, which was led by Bishop Sadiq Daniel. The leaders demanded a fair inquiry into the incident preceded by arrest of the relevant officers of the police and local administration.
“How was it possible for the rioters to go on the rampage and set more than 100 houses on fire without facing any resistance,” said the Pakistan People’s Party member of the Sindh Assembly Saleem Khursheed Khokhar while speaking at the demonstration. “The police and local administration are either incompetent or in connivance with the attackers.”
A number of minority organisations announced that they would launch a protest campaign against the Badami Bagh incident. They vowed to continue their protest till the arrest of planners and attackers of the incident.
“It’s sheer brutality,” said Michael Javed, a Christian leader from Karachi representing the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf as head of its minority wing. “The incident is part of extremism against Pakistan’s religious minorities and against the will of majority of the Pakistanis, who believe in peace, religious harmony and coexistence.”
He said violence against Christians was not a new phenomenon for the minorities in Punjab. The 2009 attacks in Gojra and multiple incidents in different cities of the province in recent years reflected the failure of the local authorities and their least interest in protecting the life and property of the religious minority.
“All political parties are united on this particular subject,” he said. “The minority wings of all parties, including the Pakistan People’s Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, PTI, Pakistan Muslim League and Jamaat-i-Islami, held a meeting under Bishop Sadiq Daniel. A six-member committee has been set up with a member from each party to devise a protest plan.”