Followed by acquittal of arsonists of Lahore’s Joseph Colony; Pakistani Christian leaders have expressed “deep disappointment” over the ruling of Anti-Terrorism Court. In a recent ruling, the ATC had acquitted 115 suspects in the arson attack on the Christian neighborhood in 2013. In this case all the accused were acquitted, maintaining that there was lack of evidence against the suspects.
While remarking about the ATC ruling, Roger Randhawa Operations Management at Caritas Pakistan Lahore stated: “It’s a sheer disappointment. The message is clear for us; those who attack minorities and openly preach hate can go spot-free. Perhaps the pictures and video footages clearly showing faces was not enough evidence. Where is the national Action Plan.”
Another Christian leader, Advocate Ijaz Farhat, former President of Christians Lawyers Association of Pakistan CLAP said that the pressure from the public and slackness on part of the Christian leaders. “The victims are hijacked by NGOs, many try to flee the country and nobody pursues the case. The Church leaders only visit the day court passes judgments. Christian lawyers are at high risk when taking up cases of minority persecution. Nobody provides us security from the crowd of hundreds waiting outside the court”, he said.
In March 2013, more than 125 homes in Lahore’s predominantly Christian neighborhood Joseph Colony were torched by a mob of more than 3,000 Muslims responding to rumors that a local Christian resident Sawan Masih, had made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammad. Nearly all the houses were torched however no one was killed in the incidents had fled their homes. In this incident, two churches and dozens of Bibles were also desecrated in the attack.
“We had no expectations; our faith in legal system has shattered. The political leaders of Punjab province and the ruling elite have strong alliances with jihadi groups. There is no justice for minority who continue to be victimized,” Irfan Mufti Muslim director of South Asia Partnership Pakistan said while remaking about the court’s ruling.