Each time an incident of violence against a minority community takes place, we think things cannot get any worse. But they do; we see acts of still greater insanity, still greater brutality — leaving us only to wonder what will come next, who will be targeted and as the head of the New York-based Human Rights Watch has said, when the frenzied mobs will come for us. It is clear we are fast approaching the point where none of us are safe in a land where extremists rule and hatred has overtaken reason.
The happenings at Joseph Colony, at Badami Bagh in Lahore, are hard to even imagine as part of a horror film. Yet they took place in real life. On March 8, a Christian sanitation worker, Sawan, was arrested after being accused of blasphemy a day or so earlier by a Muslim ‘friend’. Many local people say the accusation was false. On March 9, a mob of some 3,000 descended on the colony and torched at least 100 homes. Terrified Christian families fled, some had left immediately after the blasphemy accusation, fearful of what lay ahead.
The expected condemnations have come in. The Punjab chief minister has ordered a judicial inquiry and the restoration of destroyed houses. Around a 100 suspects have been arrested. And the optimistic can hope that this time things will be different. But in actual fact we all know this means very little. We have seen such actions before, and we have watched silently, motionlessly as the blasphemy issue gets more and more out of hand.
One reason for this is the fact that no one has been punished for past offences. No one has been convicted for the 2009 burning of Christian homes in a Gojra Colony, in which eight Christians were burnt alive. Yes, last year Rimsha Masih, the teenage Christian girl with Down’s Syndrome falsely accused by a cleric was set free, but hundreds of Christians who fled their village on Islamabad’s outskirts as a result of the accusation remain in a miserable camp, unable to return. This is then what our nation has come to – and salvation seems nowhere in sight.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2013.