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Photo Source: Amnesty International

Pakistan Reader# 644, 17 August 2023

Pakistan: Following blasphemy allegations, mobs torch churches and Christian homes in Faisalabad. Caretaker PM promise action



2023 saw a significant increase in attacks against minorities facing unprecedented insecurity and persecution in the country.

Genesy Balasingam

On 17 August, following an alleged instance of blasphemy in Jaranwala town of Faisalabad district in Punjab province, a violent crowd of hundreds trashed and torched five churches, attacked the homes of members of the Christian community and robbed items from residences abandoned by their owners due to fear of violence. The violence began after some residents claimed that numerous desecrated pages of the Holy Quran had been discovered outside a house, where two Christian brothers lived.

The vandalism and the attack on the minority community was condemned. Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar has promised stern action against those responsible for the desecration and burning of several churches and houses belonging to the Christian community. PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi stated that this kind of animosity and religious intolerance has no place in Islam or national values. Additionally, The United States and the European Union condemned the violence and demanded a fair investigation into the riots.

Religious minorities account for around 5 per cent of Pakistan'. 2023 saw a significant increase in attacks against minorities facing unprecedented insecurity and persecution in the country. Religious persecution initially targeted Ahmadis but has increased significantly over the course of decades to various other minority groups. The majority of the accused in all these violence have openly disputed the blasphemy claims levelled against them, questioning the police's legitimacy as well as the allegation into question. Vested interests have used the blasphemy laws with impunity. 

The recent Quran burning in Sweden, as well as the disarray that surrounded it, has increased sensitivity to blasphemy violence. As the Taliban gets a greater footing in Pakistan, increasing brutal attacks on religious minorities demonstrate the organisation's growing power and influence. These acts exacerbate the volatility of an already volatile country and demonstrate how Pakistan is now increasingly threatened by extremists. These attacks have escalated year after year, regardless of the regime in power. The occurrence of this attack during the caretaker government - a highly volatile political context amidst the delimitation process poses serious domestic security threat. Following the delimitation, one major fear is that these attacks may escalate from religious blasphemy to full-fledged minority conflicts.

(Kalbe Ali, “At ‘mob’s mercy’, Christians cry out for justice,” Dawn,  17 August 2023; Sif Chaudhry,Tariq Saeed, “5 churches, many homes ransacked in Faisalabad’s Jaranwala,’’Dawn,  17 August 2023; Ahmad Fraz Khan, “PM promises ‘stern action’ against mob,” Dawn,  17 August 2023; “Faisalabad rampage,” Dawn,  17 August 2023)

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