Pakistan: Mob burns churches over blasphemy claims
Over 100 protestors have been detained by police, and an investigation has been launched into the violence.
The situation remains tense, but no deaths have been reported.
Additionally, two local Christians have been charged with blasphemy, which carries the death penalty.
Despite the fact that Pakistan has not yet sentenced anyone to death for blasphemy, a mere accusation can lead to riots, lynchings, and murders
An enraged mob killed and burned a Sri Lankan man accused of blasphemy two years ago. After accusing them of insulting Islam, a mob destroyed 60 homes and killed six people in Punjab’s Gorja district in 2009.
In colonial times, the British instituted a law punishing blasphemy. Nevertheless, in the 1980s, authorities introduced stricter punishments for breaking the law, including the death penalty for those who insulted Islam.
It is estimated that 96% of Pakistan’s population is Muslim. For insulting religion, Iran, Brunei, and Mauritania also impose capital punishment.
According to Iftekharul Bashar, a researcher at the think-tank RSIS who focuses on political and religious violence in South Asia, violence fuelled by religion has increased in Pakistan since blasphemy was made punishable by death.
Increasing economic disparities have led to increased fragmentation in Pakistani society, resulting in violence directed at minority religious groups,” Mr Bashar said.
According to him, the emergence of extremist and vigilante groups within Pakistan, some of which have significant financial backing, also contributed to this trouble trend.
Local officials told BBC Urdu that authorities received calls about protests and fires early Wednesday morning following reports of the two men allegedly desecrating the Quran.
In a Christian community, torn pages of the sacred text were found with red marker ink allegedly scribbled on them with blasphemous content.
There was outrage among the Muslim community after the reports circulated around the city and on social media. As a result of the violence that ensued, mobs attacked and looted Christian homes.
One of those fleeing their homes was 31-year-old Christian Yassir Bhatti.
“They took out fridges, sofas, chairs, and other household items and piled them up in front of the church to be burned,” he told AFP.
Also, they burned and desecrated Bibles, they were ruthless.”
On social media, videos show protesters destroying Christian buildings while police watch.
In a statement, Punjab province information minister Amir Mir condemned the alleged blasphemy and said thousands of police had been sent to the area.
Reuters reported that most of the mob belonged to an Islamist political party called Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). Any involvement by the TLP has been denied.
Anwar ul-Haq Kakar, the caretaker PM, called for swift action against those responsible.
The Christian community in Lahore was “deeply pained and distressed” by the events, according to bishop Azad Marshall.
We call out to law enforcement and those who administer justice to act immediately and assure us that our lives are valuable in our homeland,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.