Christians, Other Minorities Face Acute Crisis in Pakistan’s Punjab


Islamabad, Pakistan. Photo by @Ali Ahmad for ADN

By Fatima Chaudhary

Sunni extremists and their supporters are hunting Christians in Pakistan, again, marking Pakistan’s failure to protect minorities despite scores of unkept promises to the global community.

A ransacking mob had set fire to Christian homes, held two families hostage and allegedly lynched one of the family members as a large police force watched in silence in Punjab’s Sargodha district.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) called for urgent protection of Christian families in the area who face serious threats of death and destruction at the hands of angry mobs led by extremist groups. A Human rights lawyer and politician Jibran Nasir called the attack a repeat of the Jaranwala attacks in August 2023. Several groups of mobs, instigated by the extremist group, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), torched several Churches and Christian homes, assaulted families and Church officials besides ransacking and setting fire to scores of homes. Like in the present case, the arsonists had accused the Christians of blasphemy, and false charges as it was found out later.

In the current case, the charges were falsely made at the instance of a local maulvi.

Another civil rights group, Minority Rights March, blamed the state for its failure to protect the minorities from rampaging mobs led by extremist outfits like TLP which has made living hell for minorities, including Christians. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in its fact-finding report on the Jaranwala attack, had pointed out “the pervasive sense of insecurity within the Christian community“ and a “ prevailing sense of distrust within the community toward both the administration and judiciary“. What has angered the community that the police, instead of punishing the known culprits, rounded up scores of Christians and locked them up in prisons without any charges. The community like other minorities are also traumatised by a rabid social media campaign against them.

Draconian laws governing blasphemy have been grossly misused by the state, religious extremist groups and the majority Sunnis to punish the minorities, including the Hindus, Ahmadis, Shias and Christians over the last few decades. According to a 2022 study by the Centre for Research & Security Studies, between 1947 and 2021, 89 people were killed for allegedly committing blasphemy. There were roughly 1,500 accusations and cases during this period. More than 70 per cent of these were in Punjab.

Punjab has become a hotbed of extremism with outfits like TLP, with the support of the state, attacking minorities over false charges of blasphemy. One of the reasons is the large population of Barelvi Sunni Muslims in the province which was alienated during the Islamisation drive launched by Zia-ul Haq. The martial dictator had preferred the rival Deobandis. As a result, the Barelvis took to defending the blasphemy laws as the instrument of gathering influence and causing terror.

The novice Chief Minister of the Punjab Province, Maryam Nawaz, has her hands full in protecting minorities in her province. It is another matter to look smart in borrowed police uniforms, it is a real challenge to be an effective leader of Punjab where extremists have had a longer and deep-rooted stay than her party.

Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis and other minorities live in constant fear in Pakistan. The Sargodha incident has only made this sense of fear and hopelessness even more grim.

Fatima Chaudhary is a lecturer at a private university in Punjab province.

Note: The contents of the article are of sole responsibility of the author. Afghan Diaspora Network will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the articles.   

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