Pakistani Christians Live in Fear as Violence Targeting Religious Minorities Rise

Christians in Pakistan

Pakistan recently voted to bring a new government to power led by PM Shehbaz Sharif but the fate of the minority communities continue to remain awful even after a democratic transformation as evident from the latest attack on two Christian families in Sargodha.
Once again, revealing the true face of Pakistan’s radicalised social fabric and its apathetic administration, two families were attacked by an angry mob on allegations of desecration.

According to Dawn, social media videos going viral showed a mob surrounding a bloodied man and others, including teenagers, wrecking furniture. Another video showed a large blaze outside a house. However, a senior police official claimed they were “fake videos”, insisting that no one was injured.

While police claimed certain viral videos of the attack as ‘fake’, family members of the victims claimed one of their members was attacked by the mob.

According to Dawn, the families were rescued from the enraged mob that attacked their homes in Sargodha’s Mujahid Colony on Saturday morning and 15 men were arrested. However fear stalks the Christians living in the area.

Sargodha District Police Officer (DPO) Asad Ejaz Malhi told Dawn.com that the incident stemmed from alleged desecration, but emphasised that a large police contingent was deployed.
However, this is not the first time such attacks occurred against Christian community members in the country.

In an arson attack, a church was gutted in Rawalpindi region of Pakistan ahead of Easter.

While the Christian community claimed the authorities of the religious body were engaged in tense standoff with the owner of an under-construction plaza adjacent to the church ahead of the Easter event, police rejected their allegation and said short circuit was the probable cause of the fire in the church.

In a similar episode of persecution of the minorities in the country, a violent mob ransacked and torched five churches, and attacked the residences of Christians in Faisalabad over charges of blasphemy.

All these episodes pointed towards the inability or lack of seriousness of the Pakistani government to tackle the rising violence of radicals towards the Christian and other minority communities.
The United Nations even expressed dismay at the continuing lack of protection of young women and girls belonging to minority communities in Pakistan.

“Christian and Hindu girls remain particularly vulnerable to forced religious conversion, abduction, trafficking, child, early and forced marriage, domestic servitude and sexual violence,” the UN experts said in April.

They expressed concern that forced marriages and religious conversions of girls from religious minorities have been validated by the courts, often invoking religious law to justify keeping victims with their abductors rather than allowing them to return them to their parents.

In its letter sent to newly elected PM Shehbaz Sharif, Human Rights Watch urged him to make human rights a key focus of his government.

“Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif’s new government faces many challenges that need to be addressed by upholding human rights,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should begin by reversing abusive laws and policies and demonstrating a genuine commitment to the rule of law and equal justice.”

After the Faisalabad attack, Patricia Gossman summed up the situation in her reaction when she said the episode clearly showed the failings of Pakistan’s police to adequately protect religious minority communities and respond promptly to violence targeting them.

“The lack of prosecutions of those responsible for such crimes in the past emboldens those who commit violence in the name of religion,” she said.

With expectations of witnessing a change and ensuring a better future, Shehbaz Sharif government should now focus on restoring the confidence of the minority which will help in creating a united Pakistan that can strive to move out of its economic crisis.

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