Gojra riots highlights insecurity of Pak Christian minority

Written by: Super Admin
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New York, Aug 3 (ANI): The attack on Christian families in Gojra in central Pakistan, the culmination of several days of rioting over a claim that a Koran had been defiled, shows how insecure life is for the tiny Christian minority in the country.

More than 100 Christian houses were burned and looted on Saturday in a rampage that lasted about eight hours by a crowd the authorities estimate was as large as 20,000 strong.

In addition to the seven members of the Hameed family who were killed, about 20 people were wounded, The New York Times reports.

Hameed's family had huddled in the bedroom, talking in whispers with their backs pressed against the door, as the mob taunted them.

"They said, 'If you come out, we'll kill you,' " said Ikhlaq Hameed, 22, who escaped. Among the dead were two children, Musa, 6, and Umaya, 13.

A group of armed miscreants, with masked faces had come from Jhang and led the violence against Christians in Gojra on the pretext of desecration of the Quran.

The rampage began on Thursday in a nearby village when Christians at a wedding party were accused of burning a Koran. Few here believed that, and state and federal officials who looked into the case said it was false.

Still, local mullahs seized on the news, filing a blasphemy case against the Christian family, the paper reports.

The authorities, who said the Koran accusation was spurious, filed criminal charges in the case late on Sunday and apprehended at least 12 people.

Officials said a banned Sunni militant group, Sipah-e-Sohaba, was among those responsible for the attacks, the third convulsion of anti-Christian mob violence in the region in the past four weeks.

Christians, who make up less than 5 percent of the entire population, are often treated as second-class citizens in Pakistan. Non-Muslims are constitutionally barred from becoming President or Prime Minister of the country.

While some Christians rise to become government officials or run businesses, the poorest work the country's worst jobs, as toilet cleaners and street sweepers.

Pakistan's blasphemy law has been criticized as too broad, and many legal experts say it has been badly misused since its introduction in the 1980s by the military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq. Anyone can file a charge, which is then often used to stir hatred and to justify sectarian violence. (ANI)

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