Increase in blasphemy accusations following PeshawarChurch bombings, World Watch Monitor states.
According to statistics presented by the World Watch Monitor: four blasphemy cases against Christians were registered in not more than a month’s time; this ratio is four times higher than the monthly average recorded from 2011 till date. Notwithstanding the fact that no direct or substantial proof was available against those accused in all of these cases. The incident of All Saint’s Church bombings was a marker in the history of Pakistani Christians.
Reactions from the Muslim majority to Christians protesting against the deadliest bombings were mixed. Few days back UK Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi also expressed concerns for Christians in Pakistan urging for international reaction to minorities being persecuted in WashingtonDC. World Watch Monitor has examined the time period since the Peshawar Church bombings; noticing a general environment of much commiseration and kindness towards Christians however few blasphemy charges have tainted the set-up of mutual harmony.
In a recent write-up, the World Watch Monitor claims that as a reaction to the twin suicide bombings targeting Christians, the Pakistani Christians erupted in nationwide protests showing annoyance with the government to provide security to the minorities. The WWM presented a case from Hyderabad, as Christians held protest rallies in almost every corner of the city. However, some anti-rally protesters got in amongst the Christians and started attacking passers-by and buildings such as gas stations, said Catholic priest Father Samson Shukardin.”The situation got tense but it still remained calm because the Muslims were equally saddened by the attacks,” he said.
Another incident was reported in this write-up from Rawalpindi involving a clash between the Malik and Pashtoon tribes and the Christians of Iqbal Town. When the Christians there held a protest rally on September 23, about two dozen men pelted them with stones. Saleem Masih, a resident of Iqbal Town, said that three days after the protest, a Muslim desecrated a copy of the Qur’an, but Christians were blamed. For the following few nights, he said more than 100 armed Christians guarded the Christian area in Iqbal Town.
On October 29, at about 7pm, worship was taking place in the Pentecostal Saints Church of Pakistan in IqbalTown when about five young Pashtoon men thumped the main gate shouting to close the Church. When the congregants came out, the young men fled from the scene. A similar episode extended on November 2 in IqbalTown, where a Christian convention was taking place. A group of young men again tried to disrupt the gathering. “One of them said that they are the ‘lords’ of this area and nothing can take place without their permission,” said Riaz Masih.
The WWM further writes about another incident in Lahore, when Christians from the Christian colony of Yahounabad were holding a rally, a Muslim vegetable vendor, Muhammad Akbar, known as Billa, jeered at them. He shouted at protesters that it didn’t matter that a “few Christians had died in the [Peshawar] blast”. He said these same Christians had also come out to protest when Joseph Colony was set on fire.
“He even went on to ridicule the poor Christian community by saying that Christian women were willing to do anything for the sake of two kilograms of potatoes, so what right did they have to protest,” Pakistan People’s Party minority wing leader Napoleon Qayyum told World Watch Monitor. Violence then broke out between the Christians and Billa, during which his shop was damaged. Since then, local Christians have boycotted Billa’s vegetable stall.
The report goes on with another incident in Karachi, when the Christians of Michael Town had to flee from their homes following a rally on September 23, after they were accused of committing blasphemy by pelting the sign of a mosque with stones. A journalist working for a local news channel, who reached the site when the attack was taking place, told World Watch Monitor that “a large number of attackers wearing dark brown and green turbans” told him that a text message had been circulated saying that the Christians had demolished a mosque, so they had come to avenge the “blasphemous act”.Although the Pakistani police initially tried to strike a compromise between the Christians and Muslims in Karachi, in the end they registered two criminal cases against the Christians. The first case was registered against three men (Yasir, Harry and Waqas Masih) for allegedly murdering a man who was part of the Muslim mob and who died in the stampede.The second case was lodged against Ubert, Ilyas and Babar Masih under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. No criminal case for the rampage and arson carried out by the Muslim mob was registered, primarily because the Christians feared a backlash.About 300 Christian families had to flee from their homes in the wake of the blasphemy accusation. They returned after two weeks following mediation by the Sindh government.
However, the legal cases are still pending and these Christians will face trial.