Torching of homes: Drunken row triggered clash, victims blame tradesmen

Published: March 11, 2013
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A victim said that the police asked Christian families to flee the colony on Friday and pledged to provide complete protection to their homes. PHOTO: INP

A victim said that the police asked Christian families to flee the colony on Friday and pledged to provide complete protection to their homes. PHOTO: INP

LAHORE: 

A drunken row between two friends set off the blasphemy allegations that eventually led to a mob attack on Joseph Colony and subsequent torching of more than 150 Christian homes in the neighbourhood, police and witnesses claimed on Sunday.

The victims of the assault, however, have blamed tradesmen for burning down their houses.

Sawan Masih was arrested on Friday after his Muslim friend Shahid Imran complained he had made blasphemous remarks about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Multan Khan, the suspended superintendent of police of Lahore city, said Masih and Imran had been friends for many years. “They used to sit together and drink together almost every evening. They were drunk on Wednesday when they had some arguments,” Khan told reporters on Saturday. It was during the argument that Masih allegedly made the blasphemous remarks, Khan said.

Another local sanitary worker Altaf Masih said “while they were drunk they had an argument over discussion on religious issues.”

Victims of the Joseph Town assault say that tradesmen in the area are real perpetrators of the incident.

The police, they said, failed to protect them from the mob of angry traders.

A victim told The Express Tribune, that the police asked Christian families to flee the colony on Friday and pledged to provide complete protection to their homes.

On Saturday, the number of policemen in the area remained slim, Riaz Masih said. Steel tradesmen, who were running an election campaign in the area, announced a strike that very day and placed pamphlets on the gates of their godowns and factories. This, Riaz said, irked the mob, which started chanting slogans against Christians.

“It gained momentum as more people of the locality joined in,” Riaz said.

A rickshaw driver, Patras Masih, also held the tradesmen responsible for the assault.

He said various traders used to coax the residents into selling their land to them, so that they could construct their godowns.

“They might have taken this step to get the land evicted,” Patras said.

Station House Officer (SHO) at Badami Bagh Police Station, Hafiz Abdul Majid apart from confirming that there was a personal clash between Sawan and Imran, accused tradesmen of assaulting Joseph Colony.

He said that even though the police assured the angry mob that they held Sawan under custody,  two traders – Usman Butt and Chaudhry Tariq – asked the police to hand over the alleged blasphemer to them.

Upon the police’s refusal, the SHO said, the mob got even angrier and resorted to burning houses of the Christians.

Nothing left behind

70-year-old Gulzar Bibi, a resident of Joseph town for more than four decades, never imagined that one day all hell will break on her residence.

Accompanied by her grand children, Gulzar Bibi said: “they don’t want to return to their burnt houses as they are petrified.”

“I have nothing left to me apart from these clothes. Nothing is left behind in these charred houses for me,” she added.

Riaz said that his sisters were to get married in the next few months.

“I had prepared all the dowry items. The fire gulped them too,” a defeated Riaz said.

Arrests

Meanwhile, Badami Bagh police, on the complaint of Inspector Hafiz Abdul Majid, lodged FIR against 83 nominated accused and a thousands others responsible of burning Christians’ houses. Those nominated include Tariq and Butt.

While addressing a press conference, Deputy Inspector General (Operations) Rai Tahir said that the police have arrested around 100 suspected miscreants in connection to the mob attack.

He said police teams have been raiding various places to make arrests, while they are taking help from video evidence to identify the accused.

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

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Zafar
    Mar 11, 2013 - 5:32AM

    The government should arrest all the tradesmen of that area without any regard to wheather they were in the mob or not. Confiscate their proprties, build the houses that been burnt on expense of these tradesmen. The houses must be built better and stronger than before. Provide all necessary items and any items that ech resident claims again on rxpense ofvthese tradesmen and then finally they should through all of the trades men out of that area and hand over the commercial property of those tradesmen to the residents with equal share.

    These tradesmen should be left to rot moneyless and if they create any problem they should be shot point blank.

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  • Harry
    Mar 11, 2013 - 5:39AM

    Pakistan never ceases to amaze me. Just waiting for they day to move out of this place. I know the optimists among us would say running away from the problem is not the solution but pakistan has become a problem of gigantic proportions with no solution in sight. Terrorism, power deficiency, lack of security, intolerance, no freedom of speech, poor education, inflation, corruption and the list goes on. Better to be a second rate citizen else where than being a third rate one in your own country.

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  • A. Khan
    Mar 11, 2013 - 6:27AM

    @Harry: I believe the saying goes “Its better to be a third class citizen of a first class country than a first class citizen of a third class country”. I couldn’t agree with you more.

    The problem is typical of us Muslims. That someone else will come in and solve the problem for us. Whether it is keeping your neighborhood clean or even your own house, an accident (lets just stand and watch the tamasha, someone else will help the people, a crime against humanity (its the government’s job to do something and the CJ for suo moto action). Did anyone stop to realize that it is not the CJ’s job to take suo moto action against everything that happens in this country ?

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  • Irony
    Mar 11, 2013 - 6:56AM

    So this is how the medieval ages were….

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  • A2Z
    Mar 11, 2013 - 7:16AM

    Look at this idiot, complaining about blasphemous remarks but drinking alcohol which is forbidden in Islam without any single iota of doubt. Where was his Islam at that time. Our people are sick. He should be prosecuted instead of Sawan.

    All traders should be kicked out of that area and their properties should handed over to the victims. This would do the justice.

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  • Sultan Masih
    Mar 11, 2013 - 7:30AM

    I still have faith in Pakistan. Honestly, Christians in Pakistan are treated far better than any Muslim country in Arab world. I am a retired Brigadier Christian and not once was i mistreated. Maybe i was given special preference due to my religion but yea

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  • NItin Gandhi
    Mar 11, 2013 - 8:11AM

    Some Times its badly edited video of West , Some time its Over Consumed alcohol from West…

    another reason to blame West..

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  • Jugno
    Mar 11, 2013 - 9:57AM

    @Zafar:
    You are right. There is a simple solution to the problem along your lines. If the repeal of blasphemy law is not possible, a clause can be added to the law that if the accuser is found to be not correct or unable to prove the accusation then he can also get life imprisonment. This will make them think before accusing.

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  • Ali
    Mar 11, 2013 - 10:38AM

    Drinking should be included as a blasphemous act too if this law can not be stricken out of the constitution.

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  • Mar 11, 2013 - 10:47AM

    @Sultan Masih: ; Honestly, Christians in Pakistan are treated far better than any Muslim country in Arab world”

    Mr. Brigadier do not compare the treatment received by you ( being in the army) as the benchmark treatment for all other Christians. i am sure you must not have been interacting/ mixing with the christian sweepers/ Christians doing menial jobs for survival regarding the treatment from the majority Muslim society. your conclusion is based on a controlled environment where you live. And you are surely aware of the incidents ,inspired by religious hate, happening regularly in the country So there is no sense to to hide the realities please do not try to misguide others ( be an apologist)
    Even Muslim man from the lowest strata of society does not get equal treatment ( except while praying in Mosque for societal compulsion) from little upper class( financially) Muslims..

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  • Khan
    Mar 11, 2013 - 12:03PM

    Drunk friends fight and one accuses other of blasphemy, traders decide to set scores by pushing out christian to grab land. Hypocrisy unlimited.

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  • rashid124@live.com
    Mar 11, 2013 - 12:18PM

    After a few days all the noise and anger will die down. There will be no persecution and no one will held answerable because as history shows us these Christians like other minorities are expandable. This loud pretense to execute the perpetrators, especially the two traders, will die out and everyone will be let off because these lesser than equal human do not merit importance and attention being given. Most likely there’ll be some bargaining which will result in a trade off for support by the trader community in the election.
    The Pakistani people will forget this incident and the hapless and destitute victims will be subjected to subtle or not to subtle coercion (by the perpetrators henchmen) to not pursue the case or refuse to attest – a common practice.
    Recall Shantinager and Gojra has anyone been persecuted and which party was governing Punjab during these two times?

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  • Anthony
    Mar 11, 2013 - 12:23PM

    @Sultan Masih:

    UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman all give complete 100% freedom to Christians, and the UAE has the world’s largest parish by numbers. It also has over 40 Churches in Dubai alone, not including the other Emirates.

    Better treatment in Pakistan? Tell that to the Badami Bagh people, and the Gojra people, and to Aasia Bibi.

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  • moeed
    Mar 11, 2013 - 3:20PM

    salute to punjab police and cm shehbaz sharif

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  • Curious
    Mar 11, 2013 - 4:25PM

    So, is the testimony of a drunk man eligible?

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  • Curious
    Mar 11, 2013 - 4:45PM

    @Jugno:

    I think that clause is already there. just not followed

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