Attack on Pakistani Christians revives Punjab worries

August 4, 2009

The mob violence against Christians in central Pakistan at the weekend appears to have hit a particularly raw nerve in a country already jittery about the spreading influence of Islamist militants. The deaths of eight Christians in the town of Gojra following unsubstantiated allegations that a Christian had desecrated the Koran has both revived debate about Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and renewed worries about the potential for instability in its heartland Punjab province.

According to Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah, the violence may have been orchestrated by the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), an outlawed pro-Taliban Sunni Muslim sectarian group, and its al Qaeda-linked offshoot, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). He said that masked men had come from the nearby district of Jhang, birthplace of both SSP and LeJ, to incite the anti-Christian rioting, and that the government had received an intelligence report two months ago suggesting that militants were switching from suicide bombings to inciting sectarian strife.

Dawn newspaper called in an editorial for the repeal of blasphemy laws imposing severe punishment on those accused of insulting Islam.

“These laws have become a ticket in the hands of the majority to persecute and victimise the minority communities if they don’t easily submit to their inferior status in society,” it said. “In not being blind to the faith of each individual, the state is supporting bias and bigotry against non-Muslims. The narrow-minded who spew venom through their sermons against religious minorities are only the loudest and most abominable symbols of such discrimination and their growing following is an unmistakable sign of the frightening future that we are heading towards.”

Pakistani bloggers made the same demand – Sana Saleem at Mystified Justice and Kalsoom at Changing Up Pakistan both have excellent round-ups on the laws and the treatment of minorities in Pakistan.

Looking more broadly at the potential for instability in Punjab, former foreign secretary Nadmuddin A Shaikh wrote in an op-ed in the Daily Times that the Gojra violence highlighted the power of Islamist militant groups based in the province – of which the biggest is the Lashkar-e-Taiba, accused of organising last November’s attack on Mumbai.

“This was a brute display of the strength that the extremist organisations, be it the Sipah-e-Sahaba, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or the Lashkar-e-Taiba, can continue to muster and the extent to which they can play upon the emotions of local residents who may in this case, as in previous such incidents, also have had the ulterior motive of wanting to seize the properties of the minority community,” he said.

“Such emotions and such ulterior motives will be easily mobilised were the government to stir up the hornet’s nest that the LeT and its sister organisations have become. Public opinion has now turned against some extremist organisations but it would be highly optimistic to suggest that this applies to the LeT just yet. Were action against the LeT to be contemplated, an extensive public relations campaign would have to be launched to change the current ambivalent attitude of the man in the street.”

As discussed in an earlier post, the conventional wisdom is that no matter how bad the situation might get in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, the real worries in terms of Pakistan’s stability would start if Punjab began to slip out of control. If it turns out to be correct that Islamist militant groups deliberately stirred up the mob violence in Gojra to encourage sectarian strife in the country’s heartland, then the government has just had another problem added to its already long list.

(Photo: A couple sit outside their destroyed home in Gojra/Mohsin Raza)

Comments

Will Pakistan ever introspect and try to find out where it’s heading to? Or it will just pass the blame on to some ‘foreign elements’ wanting to destabilise Pakistan as it did in case of Taliban,Balochistan,…?
Or Pakistan sincerely believes in ‘Ignorance is bliss’?

Posted by Sunny | Report as abusive
 

Myra:

Obviously this is not some mob spontaneously reacting to the desecration of holy Koran since the actors involved are LeJ, SSP, LeT terrrorists.
“Gojra assault was planned in advance: HRCP”
http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn -content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/12-g ojra+assault+was+planned+in+advance+hrcp –bi-06
“Last week’s attacks targeting Christians in Gojra were not a spontaneous reaction to the allegation of blasphemy but were planned in advance, says a fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.”

“The mission’s report, released on Tuesday, said the announcements through mosques in Gojra on July 31 urged the Muslims to gather and ‘make a mincemeat of Christians’.

“Witnesses told the HRCP mission that when they informed the police about the announcements, the police officials also confirmed hearing them.”

“The following day, Aug 1, around 1,000 people gathered in the town and marched towards Christian Colony.”

“A police contingent present in the neighbourhood did not try to stop the mob which included a number of masked men, the report said.”

“Witnesses said the attackers went about destroying Christians’ houses in a very professional manner and seemed to be trained for carrying out such activities.”

So blasphemy law existed or not–these Christians were going to be killed. But the involvement is of terrrorists and now what is Pakistan going to do against these SSP or Lashkar terrorists.

Umair:
@Rajeev, The little silver of Punjabistan is absolutely doing fine and is under no threat”
-What a coincidence that the sad news came. What do you think where this is going.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive
 

This is the first violence against Christians since 2002. Hopefully this will be a one-off event like the bombing in Azad Kashmir some months ago. The perpetrators need to be caught and punished.

 

I will give it another decade or two before all minorities from Islamic Republic of Pakistan are wiped/driven out.

So far Pakistan has done well in the last 62+ years, thier minorities went from 23% in 1947 to less than 3% in 2009.

The bigger question is if they will live in peace after they are 100% muslims or will they have a Shia-Sunni struggle

Posted by indian1127 | Report as abusive
 

Hey aamir,
when was the last time you heard someone was nabbed,detained,arrested OR PUNISHED for any wrong doing or mass killing or for several bomb blast in your country.

Do you actually think that your investigation agencies are willing to put these guys on trail.I doubt that intension and capability as well.All they are good at is asking questions and nothing else.

So many bomb blast in your country and no arrests,trails,convictions etc.

Just think about it….oh and one more thing dont start comparing this conviction rate thing with other countries as you normally do.

And kindly don’t say that your nukes will help your country to find and convict these culprits.

 

Punjab is the land of the sufis whose message is one of peace love and tolerance. I therefore find it very disturbing that there should be any violence against the Christain community or anyone else for that matter in the heartland of Pakistan. The question is will the useless,incompetent goverment of Pakistan bring the culprits to justice. I don’t think so, because they have their heads firmly burried in sand.

Naeem

Posted by Naeem | Report as abusive
 

Myra
I want to share this link:
Where the Mullahs Are the Upper Crust
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/weekin review/02tavernise.html?scp=1&sq=Mullahs %20upper%20crust%20&st=cse
Aug 02, 2009
“But Pakistan is more complicated than that. Its politics and economics are far more local than national; regional, ethnic and cultural differences are very deep.”
“In my travels in this province, none of the mullahs were talking about revolution.”
“Instead, I have found a surprisingly comfortable coexistence between the mullahs, the landlords and the political elite (the latter two are often one and the same). Even the harder-line preachers, among the sternly traditional Muslims known as Deobandis, have stuck to a bland, nonconfrontational line. ”

Now the link to Punjab Police:
http://www.punjabpolice.gov.pk/
and a glance at the list of Punjab Police’s most wanted
http://www.punjabpolice.gov.pk/most_want ed/?id=155

shows that all wanted criminals are sectarian terrorists. Punjab is a huge province, its Police force is most equipped and capable to prevent sectarian violence and protect minorities. Although Pakistan is an Islamic republic, but the white color in Pakistani flag represent minorities. Pakistan will protect its citizens regarless of their religious or ethnic background. The sectarian organizations like Sipha-e-Sahaba Pakistan SSP, Lashkar Jhangvi etc and other sunni hardliners or even shia organizations are kept under close watch by Punjab Police. On top of that, Punjab’s east borders entirely with India with huge presence of Pakistan Army along garrisons. Also, the Punjab rangers paramilitary needs to be mentioned. All these assets, Punjab Police, paramilitary and Pakistan Army are more than enough to take care of a handful of trouble makers.

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive
 

Its a classic case of “Empty mind is devil’s head”. What people need is work, economic prosperity or at least hope for a better life in the future. Any failed state cannot provide these leading people to riot due to small economic reasons. Things will improve once your country becomes more prosperous.

Posted by Rohit | Report as abusive
 

Can’t we all take it as a human issue rather than a country’s problem and criticising its officials for not being able to handle the situation smoothly? The REAL solution to this problem will come up when the whole hate criticism and blame game will cease to exist.

Posted by RUMAISA MOHANI | Report as abusive
 

hmm, violent attacks on minorities by religious fanatics…sounds like some pakistanis are copying the indians by attacking and killing minorities in their country, i love seeing the indians line up to bash pakistan as if things like have never happened in india. please give me a break. both countries need to grow up.when is the last time inida has ever actually arrested, tried and convicted extremist for attacks on christians or sikhs. attacks on muslims are a part of india’s constitution but just recently members of lashkaray BJP were carrying our attacks against christians.

Posted by sid | Report as abusive
 

Hopefully this will be a one-off event like the bombing in Azad Kashmir some months ago. The perpetrators need to be caught and punished.
- Posted by Aamir Ali

When killers Benezir Bhutto haven’t been apprehended as yet, how do you expect these poor Christians to get any justice. The truth is that the Law & Order situation in Pakistan is absolutely pathetic, even bad by failed state standards. Pakistan’s society has become extremely ignorant & intolerant. They are finding excuses to kill anyone who’s even remotely different. Pakistani minorities (Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, Parsis etc) deserve asylum in Western & other countries. I hope they can migrate or else, God have mercy on them.

Posted by brewer | Report as abusive
 

@Aman

There are considerable number of arrests and convictions of terrorists/criminals in Pakistan. You will not know that since you are sitting in India. The Pakistani state is also very active in protecting minorities, but is hampered by lack of capability and 30 years of war in Afghanistan that constantly keeps spilling into Pakistan.

These Pakistani Christians deserve justice.

 

Shehbaz Shareef’s Provincial Government as well as our political judiciary both have completely been failed to provide security and justice to common people, our nation has been hijacked by the politicians who have a vested interest in destabilization of country. Shehbaz Shareef’s Government has recently withdrawn petition filed by Federal govt in court and has decided to disassociate from Hafiz Saeed (renowned religious extremist and international terrorist) case and filed a plea for withdrawal of the case. Another blot on Pakistan’s face!

 

its not surprising that something like this would happen in pakistan. for years now minorities have been murdered and killed at the hands of the majority sunni muslims who refuse to speak up against the extremist elements in their sect. the shia have been murdered, marginalized, and discriminated for hundreds of years now. and even though pakistan was founded by a shia, the shia have been brutally killed and attacked at the hands of sunnis. this is not only true in pakistan but thru out the muslim world. its because of the sunnis that muslims have such bad image around the world. the only reason now that some pakistanis even try and show a concern about the killings of the christians is because they know they are about get all sorts of public bashing from the western,pre-dominantly christian nations. as long as pakistan is the little brother of a wahabbi state like saudia arabia, these types of killing will continue to take place.

Posted by hassan | Report as abusive
 

Sadly. It’s not surprising. The Islamists are hell bent on showing the peacefulness of Islam by wiping out their non-Christian neighbours. I am skeptical that the government will take this seriously at all. They’ve already reduced non-muslims (actually non-Sunnis) to second class citizens, both legally and socially. Can they now really be expected to change course? The loss unfortunately will be for Pakistan, whose society, by shedding it’s multi-faith, muli-sect, multi-ethnic heritage is slowly giving up any claim to Jinnah’s vision for a progressive, modern Pakistan.

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive
 

Correction:

I meant that these Islamists were hell bent on wiping out non-muslim minorities.

A sad day for Pakistan….and hopefully not another step on the march towards Talibanization.

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive
 

@Aman

There are considerable number of arrests and convictions of terrorists/criminals in Pakistan. You will not know that since you are sitting in India. The Pakistani state is also very active in protecting minorities, but is hampered by lack of capability and 30 years of war in Afghanistan that constantly keeps spilling into Pakistan.

These Pakistani Christians deserve justice.

- Posted by Aamir Ali

You obviously didn’t read Myra’s post or read rather selectively. From the Dawn article she linked to:

“It is not for the first time that an alleged act of blasphemy has triggered such brutal aggression. Nor, sadly, will it be the last if bigoted mindsets persist. Only weeks ago, Christian houses in Kasur were burnt down because the majority community there was able to allege blasphemy to exact retribution in an otherwise purely secular feud. Yet it seems little is changing to avoid the repetition of such incidents. In fact, while Gojra burnt the local administration made only half-hearted efforts to douse the fires. That is why the Christians there insisted on senior officials being booked for murder as a precondition to ending their protests. They, after all, had a duty to protect citizens no matter what their religion. Are we not supposed to be a democratic society that treats all its members, regardless of faith, equitably?”

Some record of protecting minorities.

And quit it with the comparison to Indian. The Indians may have their faults and have much to improve on but they have not seen their minority populations decline as drastically as Pakistan. That should tell you something about the state of minorities in Pakistan. The fact that a Muslim and a Sikh have been Presidents of India and that the power behind the throne today is an Italian born Catholic woman speaks volumes about how far India has come in its attempts to promote secularism. Can you honestly say the same for Pakistan? Can you ever see a day when a non-Muslim becomes the President in Pakistan or a non-native born woman garners enough votes and public support to lead the nation?

Posted by Keith | Report as abusive
 

Myra,

First Taliban force Sikhs in Pakistan to pay Jizya or “Kaffir Tax”, now Christians burned alive.

It was not that long ago that a Hindu was mobbed and killed by bear hands by a mob that accused him of blasphemizing the Prophet Mohammed, without any sort of proof, based only on hearsay. No investigation was done.

A muslim woman is 1/2 that the witness of her man and and a non-muslim is 1/4 witness that of a muslim. Is it any wonder that Pakistan is so dysfunctional?

There is a collective mental illness in Pakistan, much to its embarassing shame. Non-muslim life is not considered equal human life in Pakistan.

Hindus were at 15% during partition, now Hindus are only barely 2% in Pakistan, while Muslims in the secular, plural and democratic India have thrived. Through genocide, forced conversions by intimidation or violence and murder, Hindus have dwindled under Pakistani Republic since Jinnah, while Muslims in India have been allowed to progress in India.

The state of Pakistan has much guilt and blood on its hands for having an institution that leaves women and nonn-muslims unprotected and prone to violations.

While INdia also has sectarian violence, it is not legally propagated by the law, or encouraged by the state or Shariah type laws.

Myra,

NEW Blog: The value of human life in Pakistan, please start new topic, under any sort of subject you can.

Posted by Global Watcher | Report as abusive
 

@Sadly. It’s not surprising. The Islamists are hell bent on showing the peacefulness of Islam by wiping out their non-Christian neighbours. I am skeptical that the government will take this seriously at all. They’ve already reduced non-muslims (actually non-Sunnis) to second class citizens, both legally and socially. Can they now really be expected to change course? The loss unfortunately will be for Pakistan, whose society, by shedding it’s multi-faith, muli-sect, multi-ethnic heritage is slowly giving up any claim to Jinnah’s vision for a progressive, modern Pakistan.
- Posted by Keith

-Keith, in reality there is nothing like Jinnah’s vision–the best could be be said that Jinnah through statements served a whole buffet for anyone to cherrypick and claim that as Jinnah’s vision. The best could be said about him is that he was liberal as an individual. He delivered contradictory statements at different times.

Asking Muslims to have a separate nation and then expecting the minorities to have equal political rights in a secular democratic way.—–does it not sound like India from where he wants Muslims to run away from.

QUOTE “Of all Jinnah’s pronouncements it is his 11 August address that has received the greatest attention since the birth of Pakistan, and spawned a good deal of controversy. Although made somewhat off-the-cuff — he said that “I cannot make any well-considered pronouncement, but I shall say a few things as they occur to me” — it is considered a policy statement. He said “… If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, … is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make. …we must learn a lesson from this [our past experience]. You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state … we are starting in the days when there is no discrimination between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste, or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State…. I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”

“Not surprisingly, it has elicited varied comments from scholars and contemporary journalists. One scholar has put it down to “loose thinking and imprecise wording” and a departure from Jinnah’s erstwhile position. Another calls it “a remarkable reversal” and asks “was he [Jinnah] pleading for a united India – on the eve of Pakistan?”

In his novel Shame, Salman Rushdie described Pakistan as a “place insufficiently imagined”

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive
 

Firstly I admit we have problems so do they exist in every other country maybe in small or large in scale…

I see the idiots on this blogg whcich is titled Pakistan now n never – NOT India — but idiots seems to be very intrested in my country infact out of over billion people I see about half dozen name dedicated to giving pakistan bad name…Maybe the rest have life unlike the few on indian properganda payroll…lol

But guess what we dont CARE….what the idiots think, know arr do. Let the dogs bark while the caravans move on…. I wish the team in Arozona who fly the drones will do so on the instruction of Mr Rajeeve as he seems to have taken his precious time out to write who he wants targeted. Seems like either he watches a lot of Star Plus News (Comedy news channel) Should be voted the best…. Are maybe he should get out of the Bombay slump and actualy visit the coutry and see for the first hand what the oridinary pakistani think of India, Taliban etc etc. I tell you want everyone including idiots n pakis n the rest want to Live n let live…Yes as you have your fanatics burning mosques, churches, burning muslim children, while your army is busy raping kashmiris women n killing young kashmiris in stage shootouts. Well my friend when tat happens your puppet Head of Kashmir says nothing happened when the people are out on the streets to demand justice by the way as some idiots refer to them as thugs… Well if you want to label all Kashmiris that fine I see with my eyes many thousands on the street to demostatre agianst the indian occupation….

Its easy to point the finger at us may I suggest you look inside yourself first. Its fine to name couple of mulsim in high jobs. But dont forget the countless that were burnt alive n raped in gujratt to this days how many arrested . brought to justince NONE…

Pakistan Zindabad….. keep crying the want to see it as failed nantion…I heard that for past 60 years!!!

Good luck idiots….Keep barking doing a good job!!1 but Not good enouhg!!

Posted by ali | Report as abusive
 

Dear Moderator,

Could you please remove the comments by ali. I wish to protest at his use of the word ‘idiots’ towards other contributors. The use of such words invites all contributors into animosity. We have had an occurance like this before when people cannot contribute without using offending remarks.

Posted by bulletfish | Report as abusive
 

@Pakistan Zindabad….. keep crying the want to see it as failed nantion…I heard that for past 60 years!!!

Good luck idiots….Keep barking doing a good job!!1 but Not good enouhg!!
- Posted by ali

-Ali: welcome back. But I see no change in your posts. As ever, they hardly addressed the issue at hand. Let us not talk about Kashmir and Indian army here. we are proud of Indian Armed forces. But all this is as irrelevent as the genocide and rape of 1-3 Million Hindu/Muslims by Pakistan Army in the then E.Pakistan, now called Bangladesh. More muslims were killed there and yet no Pakistani addresses that on the blog. Is there not a problem? This actually is relevent to the issue here in a way.

Those who do not learn from the history are bound to repeat it—–and I see that happening in Pakistan.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive
 

“I see the idiots on this blogg whcich is titled Pakistan now n never – NOT India — but idiots seems to be very intrested in my country infact out of over billion people I see about half dozen name dedicated to giving pakistan bad name…Maybe the rest have life unlike the few on indian properganda payroll…lol”

Ali Posted:

Indians are coming to this blog and commenting about Pakistan because Pakistan is doing terrorism in India. Indians do not discuss China, Nepal, Bangladesh or Bhutan here, and we will not discuss Pakistan also, only if Terrorists named Abdulla, Muhammad and Kasab come from Pakistan and kill innocents.

Indians have got every reason to comment, BUT Do you ever wonder why westerns like Myra and Keith write so much about Pakistan. Why Indian blog is called “A Billion aspirations” and Pakistan is named “Now or Never”. According to your logic they idiots too ?

You also said
“But guess what we dont CARE….what the idiots think, know arr do. Let the dogs bark while the caravans move on….”

You and your leaders definately CARE what people think and say about Pakistan. If you don’t care why do you show up every now and then, and abuse here.

Empty slogans like “Pakistan Zindabad” have become a Joke now. I am sure when your leaders go door to door with a begging bowl, this is the slogan they shout right before knocking.

Posted by singh | Report as abusive
 
 

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