Atmosphere of angst surrounds dubious acquittals of all the suspects named in the incident of burning the Christian neighborhood in Lahore. On January 28, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) acquitted all 115 people accused of being involved in torching at least 100 houses of Christians in March 2013.
The decision took a flak when Pakistani Christians reacted angrily, claiming that justice had been tarnished by this ruling. In this connection, Pakistani Christian activist Cecil S. Chaudhry, from National Commission for Justice and Peace, expressed disappointment over the ruling saying: “It’s strange that not even one person was found to be involved in the attack, especially when there was media present during the attack on Joseph Colony.”
He said that despite the fact that video footages are available while the attack was been documented by the media, therefore the verdict adds to the insecurities of Pakistani Christians. “This verdict is increasing the fears and doubts in the community that the space for civil society is shrinking, and those raising a voice for seeking justice are being ignored,” Chaudhry added.
While Father James Channan of the Peace Centre in Lahore, Pakistan, said that the conclusion of the case has had a smudging impact on the community, generating fear among Christians in the country. Back in 2013, on March 9, a charged mob brandishing sticks, clubs and stones laid siege of Joseph Colony. They unleashed their fury as they looted and torched the houses of Christians.
According to an estimate about 150 houses were set on fire by the mob, as they unbridled their extra judicial judgment over blasphemy accusation on a local Christian man Sawan Masih. The entire episode resulted in desecration of several Bibles, three churches while the shops and a number of vehicles belonging to Christians had also been torched by the mob.
The Anti-Terrorism Court had acquitted the accused followed by claims of the prosecution witnesses that they said they did not recognize them. These witnesses had said that they had no objection if the accused were acquitted in the case.