The attack on the Christian communities in Gojra and nearby village Korian last year was an attempt to drive them out of the area and occupy their land, it appears.
A series of interviews with people in the area, including officials, seem to indicate that the violence in which houses were looted and torched in both Korian and Gojra and eight people killed in Gojra, was triggered by unproven allegations of blasphemy.
The judicial inquiry into the incident also confirms this.
According to the report by Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman, evidence of the alleged blasphemy was not found.
“Inkasar Khan, the then DPO Toba Tek Singh, said that the complaint of the desecration of the Holy Quran was not reported to the local police until the evening of July 30, 2009,” states the report. This was the date on which houses in Korian were set on fire, though no lives were lost. Korian is six miles from Gojra.
A Christian Talib Masih was accused of committing blasphemy during a wedding in village Korian on July 25. Five days later, a case was registered by a person named Muhammad Ashraf, who did not even belong to the village, the investigation revealed.
Napolean Qayyum, who belongs to Community Development Initiative, told The Express Tribune that the same day a meeting was convened by the elders of Muslim and Christian communities in the village which ended when a quarrel broke out. Talib was brutally beaten by the Muslims and houses belonging to Christians in Korian were set on fire.
Two days later, the Gojra attacks happened.
A fact-finding report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also claims that the attacks were pre-planned. “No desecration of the Holy Quran took place in Korian village,” the HRCP also reports.
The Christian community seconds this view.
Paul Joseph, member of the 13-member committee formed by the Christian community to pursue the case, says Qadeer Awan, an influential personality in Gojra, had been eyeing their land for some time.
“The Christian Colony land is valuable. The attacks were aimed at terrifying Christians so they would sell their houses at nominal rates and leave,” he says.
A resident of Korian, requesting anonymity, says that Christians and Muslims had been living in harmony for decades.
“For years Muslims and Christians used to bury their dead in the same graveyard. But some years ago a cleric named Qari Noor Ahmad settled in the village and advised Muslims to ask the Christians to build their own graveyard.” It is reported that Ahmed played a key role in motivating people to attack the Christians in response to the alleged blasphemy.
“The land for the present graveyard was donated by a landowner years ago and part of it was reserved for Christians,” adds the villager. “Later, the grandson of that landowner decided to occupy our piece of land.”
He also feels that the attack could have been an attempt to force Christians out of their land.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2010.
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