PM promises ‘stern action’ against mob

Published August 17, 2023
KARACHI: Members of civil society join Christian families as they protest against attacks on churches in Faisalabad, outside the Karachi Press Club, on Wednesday.—Shakeel Adil/White Star
KARACHI: Members of civil society join Christian families as they protest against attacks on churches in Faisalabad, outside the Karachi Press Club, on Wednesday.—Shakeel Adil/White Star

• Politicians, civil society condemn violence, seek swift justice
• US urges probe; EU envoy calls for calm

LAHORE: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar has promised stern action against culprits involved in the desecration and burning of several churches and houses belonging to the Christian community in Faisalabad’s Jaranwala area, as the international community condemned the violence and sought a fair probe.

“I am gutted by the visuals coming out of Jaranwala. Stern action would be taken against those who violate the law and target minorities. All law enforcement has been asked to apprehend culprits and bring them to justice,” he said in a tweet.

“Rest assured that the government of Pakistan stands with our citizenry on an equal basis,” PM Kakar said as mobs ran amok in the city.

Former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif termed the violence “sad and disturbing” and urged the government to take action against the culprits.

“I also appeal to Ulema, mashaykh, and religious scholars from all schools of thought to come forward and condemn the reprehensible actions. Such madness can’t be allowed. Pakistan belongs to all religious minorities,” he said, adding that all religious places, holy books and personages are sacred.

PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said he was horrified about the attack on churches, as violating the sanctity of places of worship is absolutely unacceptable. “The administration must ensure the safety of the Christian community and their churches,” he added.

PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi said this kind of malice and religious intolerance has no place in Islam and national values. “Those responsible for this act should be brought to justice immediately,” he added.

JUI-F leader Asad Mehmood, former minister for communications, said that the Jaranwala incident was condemnable and added that such incidents could not be controlled without punishing the perpetrators.

‘Harshest’ possible punishment

Pakistan Ulema Council head Allama Tahir Ashrafi was equally clear in his condemnation and in a video message he called the incident “totally unacceptable” and asked the Punjab caretaker chief minister to form a high-level team to investigate the entire matter.

“Even if there was a desecration, there are laws in Pakistan to deal with it and so do the courts. How can a mob be allowed to act like this? The Bible has been desecrated, and so is the Cross. Churches have been vandalised and properties set alight. This is a totally unacceptable behaviour that should be punished in the harshest terms. All those who violated the law, incited people from speakers of mosques and helped perpetrate this violence must be taken to task,” Mr Ashrafi insisted.

Also, the secretary of religious affairs ministry said “unlike the neighbouring country, there is no room for religious bigotry and hatred” in Pakistan. He announced that the National Commission for Minority and the District Peace Committees have been mobilised.

Meanwhile, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan said its leaders “visited the area with police” to pacify the mob and it was engaged in the protection of the Christian community.

Allama Raja Nasir Abbas, chairman of Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen said, “We stand for justice and the safety of all citizens” and called for stern action against the perpetrators.

“We have stated earlier too that such actions have to be controlled by the state and unfortunately the recent amendment to the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 will further violent extremism.”

Separately, the Human Rights Com­mission of Pakistan said the frequency and scale of such attacks — which are systematic, violent and often uncontainable — appear to have increased in recent years. “Not only has the state failed to protect its religious minorities, but it has also allowed the far right to permeate and fester within society and politics.”

“The government must waste no time in raising and equipping special police forces to protect religious minorities’ sites of worship as directed by the 2014 Supreme Court judgement,” it added.

EU, US condemn violence

The violence against the Christian minority was also condemned by the United States and the European Union in separate statements.

US State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said, “We are deeply concerned that churches and homes were targeted in response to reported Quran desecration in Pakistan. We support peaceful freedom of expression and the right to freedom of religion and belief for everybody as we have previously said we are always concerned about incidents of religiously motivated violence.” Violence or the threat of violence was never an acceptable form of expression, he said, urging the authorities to conduct a full investigation.

In a tweet, Dr Riina Kionka, EU ambassador to Pakistan, called for restoring calm and order.

Kable Ali in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2023

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