Dozens of Christians participated in a fake funeral procession on Friday, in protest of what they called the city government’s apathy towards them.
They demanded that the government provide alternative land to those who left their homes in Mehrabadia in fear after a young Christian girl from the area was arrested on accusations of blasphemy.
Joint Christian Action Committee (JCAC) President Akram Waqar Gill lay still in a coffin and was carried from Sector G-8 to the National Press Club in F-6, where the procession then blocked the main road. They also dug a grave nearby for the ‘deceased’.
The protesters demanded that Capital Development Authority (CDA) Chairman Farkhand Iqbal or some other government representative give them proper guarantees of temporarily allotting them alternative land somewhere in the city. However, no one from the civic body showed up to hold negotiations with Gill or other leaders.
Later, Assistant Commissioner Muhammad Ali convinced the protesters to disperse and suggested they meet the CDA chairman and present their demands to him. The protesters dispersed after blocking the road and staying at the site for over two hours.
“We will not go back to Mehrabadia. We fear another episode could happen and it would be more brutal,” said Danial Masih, who participated in the ‘funeral’.
Earlier, residents of Sector G-9/4 stopped CDA excavators from levelling the ground at the site where some displaced Christian cut trees earlier this week to set up temporary tents. The residents were opposed to the establishment of a Christian settlement in the area, fearing it could create a “nuisance” for them.
The residents said they stopped the CDA officials from proceeding with levelling because “the civic body might allow Christians to temporarily settle” at the site. “The CDA officials said they were levelling the ground to incorporate it into the nearby park, but they did not have written orders,” said a resident who opposed the settlement.
On the flip side, a report by the police’s special branch said that most of the participants in the Friday’s protest and those demanding land rights were not from Mehrabadia, but were from Rawalpindi and other areas.
The report said that the initial claim by the local Christian community said 120 families had been displaced. However, two days later, the number shot up to 800 when they submitted their demands before the CDA chairman on Wednesday.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2012.