Police claim crowd targeted Christian community after they placed blasphemy-accused man under arrest.
Minorities in Lahore were threatened by mob violence once again on Sunday night, after police arrested a Christian man over alleged blasphemy.
“Humayun Faisal Masih, a Christian, allegedly burnt pages of the holy Quran,” said Dr. Ashfar Haider, Lahore DIG (Operations). “The incident reportedly occurred in the Shera Kot area and complainant Syed Zeeshan claims he witnessed the accused setting alight a box filled with pages from the Quran,” he added. According to the senior official, police registered a case of blasphemy against Masih and placed him under arrest after discovering a box of half-burnt pages of the Quran in his possession. However, this was not sufficient for the mob that attacked the Christian community in Dhoop Sari.
Shortly after police took Masih into custody, a small mob led by local clerics gathered outside the Ravi Road Police Station and demanded the accused be handed over to them. After police refused and forced the crowd to disperse, the clerics started walking toward Masih’s home. “The mob grew and started chanting against the [Christian] community. They also attempted to attack houses and a local church,” said Haider.
The senior official said that police attempted to disperse the mob once again, but the enraged horde turned on the police and started pelting them with stones. “I was also hit in the forehead with a stone,” Haider said, adding that five other police officials were also injured.
According to the DIG (Operations), once the situation escalated, two contingents of Punjab Rangers were deployed to restore peace. He claimed that police had registered a case against the assailants, but it was unclear if any arrests had been made.
Jackob Masih, a resident of Dhoop Sari, said he had no clue about any case of alleged blasphemy until his home was under siege by the Muslim mob. “Last night, many people showed up outside my house and started chanting slogans against Christians,” he said, adding, “they damaged our property and several other houses around the neighborhood.”
Jackob said one of the mob leaders also attempted to grab his children. “Fortunately, they managed to evade capture by running away from the back of the house,” he added.
Another local, Samuel Masih, said the mob’s ire appeared to be directed at the small community’s church. “I don’t know what would have happened if police or Rangers hadn’t shown up and chased them off,” he said.
Blasphemy remains a highly contentious issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan and sectarian violence against the country’s beleaguered minorities is on the rise. Christians make up just two percent of the country and are especially vulnerable to blasphemy accusations and mob violence. Earlier this year, the Taliban attacked two churches in Youhanabad, another Christian locality, killing 23 and injuring 70. Shama and Shahzad, a Christian couple, was bludgeoned to death over alleged blasphemy last November in a case currently pending before the Supreme Court. Joseph Colony, a Christian neighborhood in Lahore, was similarly set alight by a mob of thousands in 2013.