(Voice of the Persecuted) On March 9, 2013 the Christian neighborhood , Joseph Colony in Lahore, Pakistan was overcome by a large Muslim mob. The colony was attacked and vandalized after a local Christian man had been erroneously accused of blasphemy. The infuriated mob forced some 170 Christian families to flee the area. It was reported that the mob not only attacked the houses but also looted them. Disturbing scenes of burning houses, streets strewn with debris and blackened furniture were seen as the mob attacked. Read our March 2013 report covering the horrific attack.
After the attack, Pakistanis and villagers lamented,
“They burnt down our houses, they burnt our Bibles. You should have seen the way we had to run. Women and children, running, some children weren’t even wearing shoes.”
Another resident said in tears while she described the fire burning down of the community, “I saw it with my own eyes. They [the mob] were laughing as they destroyed everything.”
One of the affected said people in large numbers came to her home, ransacked it, threw household items out of her house, doused them with gasoline and set fire to them. “They torched the houses of many people who had nothing to do with the incident,”
“This is Pakistan, but not the Pakistan which Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah dreamed of.”
Over the years, there have been numerous abuse over blasphemy allegations. In 2009, a Christian neighborhood in the city of Gojra, in central Punjab province, was targeted. Nine people lost their lives and many homes were destroyed.
In 2011, the former Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, was assassinated by his own security guard, Mumtaz Qadri, who was against Taseer’s public support of Aasiya Noreen, widely known as Asia Bibi, a Christian woman condemned for allegedly committing blasphemy. The law is often misused against Christians and other religious minorities. Taseer criticized and wanted Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws amended and fiercely advocated for Asia’s release. Asia, a mother of 5 still sits in jail praying her death sentence will be overturned.
Also in 2011, Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated in Islamabad. Taliban gunmen, opened fire on Bhatti’s car and killed him on the spot. Bhatti was targeted by extremists for speaking out against the country’s ruthless blasphemy laws.
Rimsha Masih, a teenage Christian girl was charged with blasphemy for allegedly burning pages from the Quran. However, the case was dismissed after investigations revealed that Masih was framed by a cleric, Khalid Jadoon Chishti. Rimsha and her family were evacuted out of Pakistan for ongoing death threats.
New reports claim a Pakistani lawyers’ group behind the rise in blasphemy cases. Rueters shared,
The group, whose name translates as The Movement for the Finality of the Prophethood, offers free legal advice to complainants and has packed courtrooms with representatives, a tactic critics say is designed to help it gain convictions.
The stated mission of the Khatm-e-Nubuwwat Lawyers’ Forum and its leader Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry is uncompromising: to use its expertise and influence to ensure that anyone insulting Islam or the Prophet Mohammad is charged, tried and executed.
“Whoever does this (blasphemy), the punishment is only death. There is no alternative,” Chaudhry told supporters crammed into his small office behind the towering red-brick High Court building in the eastern city of Lahore. Read more
Protests erupted after Mumtaz Qadri who is held by many as a hero, was executed on Monday. Mobs clashed with police, attacked a media office in Karachi and a press club in Hyderabad after Friday prayers against the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri for Taseer’s murder. Security has been tightened around Asia Bibi as new threats have been made to kill her.
Until it is abolished, innocent minorites will continue to face false charges or death sentences as victims of Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy law.