Tag Archives: Baadami Bagh

Death by a thousand cuts

By Farahnaz Ispahani

After each act of violence against religious minorities, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or Sipah-e-Sahaba proudly own up to it without fear of punishment

The recent mob attack on Christians in Lahore, resulting in the burning down of over one hundred Christian homes while the police stood by, is a reminder of how unsafe Pakistan has become for religious minorities. The attacks on Christians follows a rising tide of attacks on Pakistan’s Shia Muslims, sometimes mischaracterised in the media as the product of sectarian conflict. In reality, these increasingly ferocious attacks reflect the ambitious project of Islamists to purify Pakistan, making it a bastion of a narrow version of Islam Sunni. Pakistan literally translates as “the land of the pure”. But, what started in an imperceptible way as early as the 1940s, picking up momentum in the 1990s, is a drive to transform Pakistan into a land of religious purification.

Muslim groups such as the Shias that account for possibly 20-25% of Pakistan’s Muslim population and Non-Muslim minorities such as Christians, Hindus and Sikhs have been target-killed, forcibly converted, kidnapped and had their religious places bombed and vandalised with alarming regularity. At the time of partition in 1947, Pakistan had a healthy 23% of its population comprise non-Muslim citizens. Today, the proportion of non-Muslims has declined to approximately three per cent. The distinctions among Muslim denominations have also become far more accentuated over the years.

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Cries for a lost home(land)

By Xari Jalil

LAHORE, March 9: “Burn us too!” wails a woman, her hands repeatedly hitting her head. “Did they leave us alive to see all this?” Her tears stream down her face and her nose is red and swollen. In one of the doorways, a mother and son stand hugging each other and weeping as if someone has just died. “They took everything from us…” sobs the boy. “Those robbers took everything we had worked hard for.”

Not many of the homes in Joseph Colony are left intact. They are now skeletons, empty shells, housing nothing but ashes.

The Christian families, who had been shifted one night ago for ‘safety’ as the police told them, only came the next day to find out that all of their belongings and all their assets – in fact everything that they owned had been ransacked, robbed, and the rest mercilessly burnt to the ground. All because one man from among them was accused under Section 295-C: an accusation which has not been proved.

While the police remain guarded, only carefully revealing any kind of information to the media, and the Muslim community prefer to remain mute, the Christians are ablaze with fury.

“There are about 250 families in total,” says Aslam Masih. “Each family has faced a loss of about Rs0.8 to Rs0.9 million, and this figure is the lowest I am talking about.”

Mariam Bibi stands in her doorway peering inside. She cannot step inside because the ashes are still white and burning, and acrid, black smoke fumes out angrily.

“We saved every penny to collect for my daughter’s dowry,” she sobs. “In one night they have left us homeless and out on the streets. Where will we sleep now?”

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British Pakistani Christian Association – In memory of Shanti Nagar

Today is the 16th anniversary of the sacking of Shanti Nagar. In memory of this, we publish the relevant section of a new report on Pakistan we plan to publish quite soon.

Shanti Nagar is a predominantly Salvation Army village in the Punjab province, founded in 1916, of around 25-30,000 people. Apart from about 15 Muslim families – for whom the other villagers built a mosque – the inhabitants are Christian. Hard work in farming meant the village was relatively prosperous. On 17th January police raided the house of a 60 year old Christian, claiming intelligence of alcohol-drinking and gambling going on. The police regularly raided the village on such pretexts – usually about every fortnight, probably because of jealousy over the Christian village’s prosperity. They would harass the villagers, and because the villagers were rich enough to bribe the corrupt police, they always came back for more. Anyway, despite, as ever, no gambling or alcohol or anything else illegal going on there, they searched his property, and amidst the ransacking a box with a bible fell out. The police deliberately kicked and desecrated the bible, and took the man to the police station, even though they had found nothing illegal, and were trying to get a large bribe from him. The residents of the village protested the raid, the false arrest and the desecration of the bible, and also the numerous false blasphemy accusations that had been made against villagers. They asked for charges under article 295 to be brought against the policeman responsible. Even after police investigations found the charge to be true, the police refused to act until sustained pressure resulted in a promise to suspend the officers responsible and take them to court. Then the police pressured the village for the matter to be settled out of court, but they refused and the senior police officer threatened to act in way that meant they would not be able to stand on their own feet for at least 50 years. On 3rd February, a general election day, he posted the policeman who had kicked the bible to Shanti Nagar as security officer. This made the villagers even more angry as it proved the promises by higher police officers to take action was a lie, and they protested even more, so the police hatched a plot. Two days later, a Muslim man went to an abandoned mosque 2km from Shanti Nagar and found – so he said – torn pages of the Quran with blasphemous words and the name and address of the Christian from Shanti-Nagar who complained about his bible being desecrated, along with several others. He took it to the police station of the nearby city of Khanewal, a stronghold of an Islamicist group with ties to Bin Laden called Harkat-ul-Insar. Within 30 minutes of registering a case (and several Christians being arrested), mosque loud speakers from the city and all the Muslim villages around about were calling all faithful Muslims to wage jihad against Shanti Nagar, using word for word identical language. City church priests rushed to warn senior officials of the impending attack, and were promised that all appropriate measures would be made, but that too was a lie. Late that night, mobs started attacking churches, Christian homes and shops and medical dispensaries in Khanewal, setting them and their contents on fire. The next morning, the mob attacked the Catholic church just outside the city Council buildings. Bibles and other books were gathered from churches and burned, and the Holy Communion bread thrown on the floor, statues and the like were systematically smashed. 100’s attacked the priests’ house and burned all the parish records. Pleas for police help went unheeded, they just stood by and watched. The mob attacked a Christian boys school. Many fled, but about 50 of the youngest hid under their beds. The mob set fire to mattresses over them, and they had to flee for their lives, several being carried out unconscious. They burned all the school records and furniture. They then attacked the Salvation army church and pharmacy, and re-attacked the Church of Pakistan building they had attacked the night before. Christians in local shops and homes fled for their lives, but those who were caught were severely beaten. Again the police did nothing. The mob only retreated when Christians started throwing bricks and stones to defend their homes.

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