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Christians of Gojra in Pakistan are still waiting for justice

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Christians of Gojra in Pakistan are still waiting for justice

As the Christian community held a memorial service on Aug. 1 for the Gojra incident, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said that Christian community felt that it was being pressurized to reach a compromise and withdraw the case against the accused Muslims.

A year ago, on Aug. 1, a Christian locality in Gojra city of Punjab province was attacked where nine Christians were killed, 18 people injured, and more than 120 Christian homes destroyed by a Muslim mob who were enraged about allegation that a Christian in a nearby village, Korian, had defamed Holy Quran. One Hameed Mashi, 50, who was fired with a bullet in his head died at the spot. His 7 family members, including women and small children, were burnt alive.

The memorial was being held to pay homage to those who had been killed without any reason and all those who had been affected by the incident. The memorial service was attended by Christian men, women and children. Some Muslim government officials and local Muslim religious clerics attended the commemoration. Sadly, not even a single culprit is punished and Christians are still waiting for justice.

Almas Hameed, who lost eight members of his family, decided to leave Pakistan for his safety because of the pressure from the extremists to withdraw his compliant. The police was failed to arrest the offenders because of political pressure.

The Christian community alleges that those who were arrested earlier were released by the police though they were clearly identifiable in the video footage of the incident. Qari Noor Muhammad, one of the men nominated in the FIR, was the one who motivated Muslims in the area through the mosque’s loudspeakers to attack Christians, is still at large.

The HRCP has stated that although peace prevails in Gojra, that peace is largely due to the presence of a strong police contingent.

Although police have submitted Challan (case file) for trial, there is no indication of when proceeding would begin. “The Christians of the area apprehended that conviction of the accused might lead to a backlash against the local Christian population,” HRCP said.

The Muslim and Christian communities, with the assistance of the local administration, trying to promote peace and harmony in the area as well as attempts by extremist elements to inflame emotions but the Christians still feel threatened. Professor Anjum James Paul, Christian social worker, says that the Christians in both of the places of Korian and Gojra are still in the state of fear. “At presently the situation is calm but pressure is still there,” says Church of Pakistan Bishop John Samuel of Gojra. He adds that unfortunately the Muslim community thinks we are western agents and wants us to leave the locality. “We are Pakistanis and want to live here. We want a peaceful society,” he added.

According to some senior police officials, some wanted Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP, a banned terrorist organisation) hardliners have recently been picked by the security forces. Out of the 78 people nominated in the Korian incident, 59 are under arrest, four are acquitted and 15 are on the run. And from the 800 unknown attackers in the Gojra tragedy, 89 are nominated, 42 arrested and 29 are still wanted. “Others have been declared innocent and granted bail,” Muhammad Khalid Malik, Deputy Superintendent Police Gojra says.

Apart from court trail, the Christian community is also not satisfied with Punjab government’s reconstruction work and support to the victims. “We are still waiting for the government to help us,” Mehnga Masih, 57, said.

Pir Israr Bahar Shah, a Muslim cleric, expressed solidarity with Christians during the memorial service and said, “The Gojra violence by the terrorists created a bad name for Islam and Pakistan in the world around. The incident has not given any service to Islam. People of Pakistan are targeted by the non-state actors indiscriminately. The terrorists are attacking Shrines, Mosques, Churches, Temples, hospitals, security personnel.” He stressed the need for interfaith harmony and peace,” Ashfaq Fateh, a Christian social worker reported.

Aftab Alexander Mughal

Minorities Concern of Pakistan

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Aftab Alexander Mughal is a Pakistani journalist and a human rights activist. He is the editor of Minorities Concern of Pakistan, an e-magazine, while he also heads the Asia desk of Spero News . For 14 years, he served the “Minority Rights Commission of Pakistan” and “Justice and Peace Commission of Pakistan” as National Director for Research and Publications and an Executive Secretary. From 1985 to 1992, he worked as Youth Director of Catholic Diocese of Multan, Pakistan. Born in 1956 in Muzaffargarh, Southern Punjab of Pakistan, Mughal has worked with many national and international civil society organizations. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science. He has widely travelled and represented Pakistan at regional and international conferences. He has been awarded the "International Award for Excellence in Journalism 2010" by the Union of Catholic International Press (UCIP) whose international office is in Geneva, Switzerland. The award was made at the World Congress, which was held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, September 12 -19, 2010. This is Mughal's second award from UCIP. His first one being the "Media in Your Country Award" which he received on the October 20, 1989 in Ruhpolding Germany. Mughal started his career as a journalist in 1979 and edited the monthly magazines "Nishan-e-Rah" and "Mashal." until 1985. Since then he worked as a freelance journalist. His main area of interest is human rights, peace and religious freedom in Pakistan. He also has been contributing to national and international magazines, newspapers and various news agencies and has several books to his credit on minority rights issues including, “Death or Exile” and “From the Ashes of Shantinagar.” Moreover, he is also a co-author of “Section 295 C, Pakistan Penal Code – Study of the History, Effects and Cases under Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan.”

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