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ICC Note:

Following the grizzly murder of a Christian couple accused of blasphemy, three more cases of blasphemy have been leveled against Christians over the past month. In many cases, accusations of blasphemy are false and used to settle personal scores or abuse local religious minorities. Will Pakistan’s government take action to insure none of the Christians currently involved in these three cases are murdered by local mobs?

12/12/2014 Pakistan (World Watch Monitor) – Three more cases of blasphemy accusations have emerged in Pakistan, even after a Christian couple’s beating to death and burning in a brick kiln after allegations of blasphemy horrified the world, including the metropolitan elite in the country.

The Christian couple were killed over suspicions of desecrating the Qur’an on November 4. The Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed the resolve to bring the perpetrators “to justice” and appointed Senator Kamran Michael to be the focal person in the case.

Condemnation from top religious clerics gave some hope to human rights defenders for some positive change. The Pakistani police arrested dozens of suspects in connection with the lynching of the couple but all these measures have failed to curb the rising levels of discrimination against Christians.

London-based Minority Rights Group International in its new report published yesterday (Dec. 8th) Searching for Security: The Rising Marginalization of Religious Communities in Pakistan confirms this trend:

“The environment in which minorities find themselves is characterized by hate speech, frequent invocation of blasphemy laws and increasingly violent attacks on places of worship.”

It was in this hostile environment that only four days after the Christian couple was beaten and burned to death, 24 bonded-laborer Christian families, also working at a brick kiln, narrowly escaped a mob attack, only due to the intervention of a police contingent which happened to be passing through the village.

World Watch Monitor visited the brick kiln the next day and interviewed a number of people involved to piece together this account of events:

A copy of the Qur’an was recovered from a water channel in Pajian (Bus) Stop, Raiwind, on November 9. The Qur’an was handed to cleric Muhammad Hussein who runs a mosque in the nearby village. After this, an announcement was made from the mosque that desecration of the Qur’an had taken place.

In the absence of any obvious suspect, nearby Christians were rumoured by locals to be the ones who could have done this crime. As a mob began pouring in after the announcement, some extremist Muslims pressed these Christian bonded workers to declare on oath that they hadn’t done this act “or else the Kasur episode could be repeated.”

The Christians immediately informed the brick kiln owner, Hajji Ikram, about this demand and the rising level of anger among the protestors. Hajji told World Watch Monitor he found it very impractical to bring all his Christian workers out and make them take an oath. “I discussed with my son Muhammad Tayyab -what if the enraged mob were still unsatisfied, and the Kasur incident be repeated at our kiln.”

“Fearing any untoward situation, I told the Christians to immediately inform the police about the threat that neighboring Muslims have posed to them.”

It did not take long for the police to arrive and take control of the mob. Some of the Christians in the village told World Watch Monitor that about nine vehicles loaded with more than 100 policemen immediately arrived to protect the Christians, and remained deployed there for a couple of days.

Talking to World Watch Monitor, Saddar Superintendent of Police Ejaz Shafi Dogar said that on that day most of the police had been deployed at the annual gathering of the Tablighi Jamaat (an Islamic religious movement that aims at spiritual revival), which is only a few kilometers away from the village. “The program had ended and we were near the village when the emergency call from the Christians was received,” said Dogar.

“The police immediately took charge of the situation and resolved the matter peacefully. This all became possible because of the ready availability of the police; otherwise, things could have got worse,” Dogar said.

“The method prescribed in Islam for discarding a worn out copy of the Qur’an is burying it but many illiterate Muslims, though wrongly, believe that the worn out Qur’an should be drowned in clean running water,” Dogar said.

It is in this context that, out of reverence, someone threw a copy of the Qur’an into the canal from which a water channel comes to this village and ends near the brick kiln where Christian families worked.”

“The condition of the Qur’an was so deteriorated that it was later easy to convince the area Muslims that it had drifted all the way from the canal into the channel.”

Dogar says that there is no more danger for the Christian families working on the kiln.

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