Judicial inquiry into Pakistan anti-Christian attacks

The governor of Punjab, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, has announced the opening of an inquiry into anti-Christian violence in Sangla Hill, Pakistan, on 10 November.

AsiaNews reports that a crowd of around 2000 people, apparently spurred by accusations of blasphemy against a local Christian, attacked churches, convents and Catholic and Protestant schools.

In his visit to Sangla Hill on 17 November Elahi told church authorities he had written to the Lahore High Court so that it may designate a judge to investigate the case. The governor then promised to take severe action against perpetrators of the attacks, which he harshly condemned. He said he had already suspended an official of the Nankana district police for failing in his duties.

During the visit, Fr Samson Dilawar, parish priest of Sangla Hill, asked the governor to officially denounce the true aggressors. The priest reiterated his call that Yousaf Masih, a 50-year-old detained for blasphemy, be released, because the accusations made against him were baseless and motivated only by economic interests.

The director of the Youth Commission of Faisalbad Diocese, Fr Khalid Rasheed Asi, talked to the Minister of Religious Affairs, Ijazul Haq, who went to Sangla Hill with Governor Elahi. The priest asked the minister to repeal the "cruel" blasphemy law and to judge those guilty of the attack under the anti-terrorism law. The same appeals were made by the bishop of Faisalbad, Mgr Joseph Coutts. During a press conference, he highlighted how the blasphemy law was the reason underlying many cases of violence in Pakistan. The bishop asked specifically that legal action be taken against the nazim (head) of the local Council and the clerics who instigated people to violence in mosques.

Three members of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also visited Sangla Hill. HRCP president Hina Jillani, said the attack appeared to have been instigated and provoked by local elements. The woman denounced the "clear negligence" of police in managing the incident; the forces of order did not impose Section 144 - pertaining to the gathering of people into groups - on the area, although they were well aware of the tension. The HRCP will research happenings at Sangla Hill and submit proposals to the government.

Judicial inquiry into Sangla Hill anti-Christian attacks (AsiaNews.it 21/11/05)

Priest recounts terror of mob attack on Pakistani church compound (Catholic News Service 18/11/05)
Arson attacks on Pakistan churches (The Tablet 19/11/05)
After 2000 Muslims Attack Churches, Pakistani Christians Hold Sunday Service Out In Open (Catholic Bishops Conference of India 17/11/05)
Day of mourning in Pakistan today over church attacks (catholicireland.net 17/11/05)
Pakistani Christians Shocked by Rampage (Zenit 15/11/05)
Pakistani Christians organize strike to protest assaults (Catholic World News 15/11/05)
Christian leaders urge Pakistan president to repeal blasphemy law (AsiaNews.it 15/11/05)
Pakistan president told: Attacks on Christians unacceptable (Ecumenical News International 15/11/05)
Pakistani Church leader express solidarity to Christian village attacked (AsiaNews.it 14/11/05)
Pakistan: Islamic mob assaults Christians (Catholic World News 14/11/05)
Mob Sets Churches Ablaze in Pakistan (Zenit 13/11/05)
Pakistan: Thousands of Muslims burn Christian churches, convents, schools and homes in Punjab (AsiaNews.it 13/11/05)
Mobs torch Pakistani churches (SBS 13/11/05)

22 Nov 2005