Christians under attack: HRW points fingers at police complicity

Human Rights Watch urges govt to take immediate legal action against Joseph Colony attackers.

Our Correspondent March 11, 2013
Human Rights Watch urges govt to take immediate legal action against Joseph Colony attackers.

KARACHI: The Human Rights Watch has urged Pakistan’s government to take “immediate legal actions” against groups responsible for threats and violence against minority communities across the country.

The human rights body took strong notice of the incident after an over 3,000-strong mob set ablaze more than 150 houses of Christians in Lahore’s Joseph Colony over alleged blasphemy charges against a resident on Saturday.

The HRW said that in several instances, the police have been complicit in harassing and framing false charges against members of these groups or stood by as they were attacked.

“Research by HRW indicates that the police have not apprehended anyone implicated in such activity in the last several years,” said a statement released by the rights body.

It also urged the international community and intergovernmental bodies to press the Pakistani government to repeal sections 295 and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which includes the blasphemy law and anti-Ahmadiyya laws.

“While international and Pakistani human rights groups have long called for the reform or repeal of the blasphemy law, it has come under renewed scrutiny after a mob torched dozens of houses located in a Christian neighbourhood in Lahore on Match 9. Local authorities stood by and did not either protect the Christians that were threatened or their homes,” the HRW said in a statement on Sunday.

“The Punjab provincial government has spent almost its entire term in office being in denial about threats to minorities,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at the HRW.

“Unless Pakistan’s government authorities are following a policy of wilful discrimination, law enforcement authorities need to put aside their prejudices and protect religious minorities.”

The HRW stated that social persecution and legal discrimination against religious minorities was becoming particularly widespread in Punjab. The international rights monitoring body urged the provincial government to investigate and prosecute as appropriate campaigns of intimidation, threats, and violence against vulnerable groups.

The HRW revealed that under the country’s blasphemy law dozens were charged in 2012 and at least 16 people remained on death row for blasphemy, while another 20 served life sentences.

“The government seldom brings charges against those responsible for such violence and discrimination,”the statement said.

Hasan said, “The ugly fact is that the blasphemy law is an enabler of mob violence against vulnerable groups. As long as such laws remain on the books and the authorities remain unwilling or unable to rein in mobs playing judge, jury and executioner, Pakistan will remain plagued by abuse in the name of religion.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2013.


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