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Rallies condemn torching of Christians’ houses

March 10, 2013

ISLAMABAD, March 10: Members of the Christian community, civil society activists and political workers on Sunday held protest rallies in the twin cities against the torching of over 100 houses of the minority community in Lahore a day earlier.

Around 300 protesters gathered outside the National Press Club in Islamabad and demanded immediate dismissal of the police officers concerned and initiation of criminal proceedings against those involved in the attack.

It may be added that the mob attacked the houses of the Christian at Joseph Colony in the Badami Bagh area of Lahore after one of the residents of the locality was accused of blasphemy. The alleged blasphemer was already under police custody after a case registered against him.

The protesters in Islamabad termed the attack an open terrorism in the name of religion. They said it had become a routine in the country to burn down the properties of minorities on the charge of blasphemy and force them out of their areas. In the recent past, they added, similar incidents also took place in Islamabad, Mardan, Gojra and other cities.

Speaking on the occasion, Syed Nasir Ali Shah, A PPP member of the National Assembly from Quetta, said the government should take strict action against those involved in the terror incident. It seems the government has failed to maintain its writ in most of the cities, he added.

“The attack was against the teachings of Islam, so strict action should be taken against the culprits,” he said.

Asia Nasir, an MNA of the JUI-F, said the Punjab government should resign because it had failed to provide security to the people. She said the affected people did not want compensation but justice.

Human rights activist Tahira Abdullah said the police officers concerned should be dismissed from service and criminal proceedings should be started against them. She demanded that the government should construct the destroyed houses.

Farzana Bari, another rights activist, said such kinds of crime should not be ignored. All the culprits should be identified and brought to book, she added.

Robinson Asghar, the chairman of the All Pakistan Christian Action Committee, said the incident showed incompetence of the government of Punjab. He said at least Rs2 million should be given as compensation for each destroyed house.

“Police officials instructed the residents of the area to leave just a day before and the next day all the houses were burnt down in the presence of the police. It shows that the police are involved in the crime,” he said.

The protesters also chanted slogans against provincial minister for human rights and minorities affairs Kamran Michael and called for his resignation.

Protest demonstrations were also held in other parts of the capital city. Some protesters also blocked traffic at Faizabad.

RAWALPINDI: The Christian community in the garrison city also brought out rallies to condemn the Lahore incident and demanded that the government should provide protection to the minorities.

More than 100 Christians held a rally from Rawalpindi-Islamabad Press Club to Marrir Chowk under the banner of the National Christian Movement Pakistan (NCMP).

Addressing the gathering, NCMP president Professor Robin Dawood said the Christians were feeling discriminated against as the government had failed to provide them protection.“The Christians are not the second class citizens of this country. They are Pakistani nationals and as such it is their right to live in peace,” he remarked.

He said the local administration’s failure deprived the people of their houses and valuables. It is the duty of the government to arrest the people involved in the crime and brought them to justice.

Asif James said the tragic incident occurred after the government failed to bring those involved in the Shanti Naagar and Gojra incidents to justice. “The federal government and the Supreme Court should take notice of the injustices to the Christians and stop such crimes otherwise the community will continue facing similar incidents,” he said.

In another protest, more than 150 Christians brought out a rally from Banni Chowk to Committee Chowk and blocked Benazir Bhutto Road for an hour.

They were chanting slogans against the Punjab government and demanded that those who looted the houses of the poor people should be arrested.

The speakers said the government had failed to provide the basic right of protection to the people. They said the Christians were feeling insecure in their houses. They demanded resignation of the provincial government.

“The police and the administration in Lahore failed to stop the mob from looting and burning the houses of Christians. There is a dire need to improve law and order situation in Punjab,” they said.