The inhabitants of Joseph Colony suffered a wave of terror on Sunday after a youth raised a hue and cry about another assault on Christians, but his claims appeared to have been exaggerated.
Men told their wives and children to hide and then came out onto the streets in protest, while some made panic-stricken calls to Rescue 15 after a young man named Babar told people that a Muslim mob had attacked him and broken his arms and legs because he was a Christian.
Soon, a large security contingent – including the paramilitary Rangers – hundreds of Christian citizens from other parts of Lahore and nearby towns, and several reporters had converged on Joseph Colony.
The crowds dissipated after it became apparent that Babar had suffered minor injuries in a clash over personal reasons and that there was to be no repeat of last month’s scenes.
On March 9, at least 200 homes in the largely Christian neighbourhood were set ablaze by a frenzied mob over an alleged blasphemy incident. The incident was condemned across the world and resulted in the city’s police chief losing his job. Cases were later registered against more than 50 people.
Superintendent of Police (SP) Adeel Hussain Chandio told The Express Tribune that Babar had told residents that he had been assaulted in a tailor’s shop by five Muslim men he had never seen before who had been out for “revenge” against Christians, as they had received widespread sympathy and compensation for the attack.
The SP said that upon further interrogation, Babar admitted that he recognised one of the attackers as a Muslim man named Imtiaz, from whom he had sought to purchase some liquor. The two had gotten into an argument, after which Babar had been beaten up. The matter had nothing to do with religion or last month’s arson attack, he said.
The police registered a case against Imtiaz and four unidentified men under Section 506 (intimidation) of the Pakistan Penal Code. The SP said that they may add a more serious charge if the medial report stated that Babar had suffered a serious injury. “He appears only to have a small bruise on his arm,” he said. Police have been unable to find Imtiaz.
Sajid Masih, who accompanied Babar to Nawaz Sharif Hospital with the police, said that the young man did not appear to have any broken bones, but his arms and legs were swollen where he seemed to have been hit with clubs.
Aslam Pervaiz Sahotra, a rights activist who chairs the Human Liberation Commission of Pakistan, accused the police of falsely portraying the incident as of a personal nature and insisted that it was connected to last month’s attack on Christian residents of Joseph Colony.
“People are targeting the Christians one by one as they bear a grudge against them over the compensation they received from the Punjab government. The minority communities must be provided security,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2013.