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Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Will Gujranwala become the next Gojra?

Image of house burning in Gojra in 2009 - let us pray we do not see any similar incident at Gujranwala.

It seems the initial letter "G" is not all that links the two cities Gujranwala and Gojra.  The terror that citizens faced when their homes were burnt down AT Gojra in 2009, shares a not dissimilar beginning to the current hatred directed towards Christian citizens of Gujranwala.  In both cases a purported desecration of a Quran led to the local mosque leaders inciting hatred towards local Christians.  It seems the people of Pakistan have learned little from an incident that shocked the globe...

In the case of Gujranwala the propitious efforts of local police have stemmed the tide of malevolence and has contributed significantly to limiting any adversity, for the terrified population of Aziz Colony. In recent comments on facebook Christian MNA Asiya Nazir commented (sic):

"Dear all section 144 has been imposed in Gujranwala, there has not been much destruction only school of pastor has been stoned but law enforcing agencies are taking strict actions ,but fear still prevails among the people I have a close eye on all the affairs even trying to contact the religious people of Muslims to step forward to settle the matters."

For those of you who are unaware of the contents of Section 144 of the Pakistani Penal Code I can clarify that the act prevents unlwaful riots and use of weapons, below is an extract of the act:

Joining unlawful assembly armed with deadly weapon:
Whoever, being armed with any deadly weapon, or with anything which, used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, is a member of an unlawful assembly/shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

One of our informants in Pakistan has notified us that 10 arrests were made as a consequence of the tyre burning protests in Gujranwala on Saturday.  Police protection of the Christian minority in Gujranwala and a follow through to convictions for the arrested culprits will be required to defuse the angst in the city.

Asiya Nasir yesterday wrote further on the situation in Gujranwala (sic);

"Regarding the Gujranwala case I've been in contact with the high officials and trying my best to persuade them that its highly sensitive issue,can lead to serious consequences,the IG punjab and RPO Gujaranwala has assured that they'll try utmost to protect the people and their assets".

Such news is encouraging but provides no definite assurances as such we as a community must remain vigilant in our prayers for our frightened family.

News from our regular correspondent has been a mixture of positivity and concern he commented (sic);

" A women's protest was announced on Saturday for Sunday but it didn't happen. Presently about 3000 policemen are present in the area. The CPO has said that if situation doesn't come under control than he'll be calling PUNJAB RANGERS and might impose curfew. on sunday section 144 of pakistan penal code was imposed in the area.  Tomorrow we are not opening our schools. I've decided not to open my school for 2 more days because there are rumors of more and violent protests. Now they are trying to bring outsiders in the situation, although those outsiders are not known yet but still there are chances. The community has mainly left the area, mostly they have transferred women and children to safer places. let see what happens in the morning and lets hope and pray for the best".

News so far indicates that no further incident has taken place but the terror and upheaval that innocent Christians have had to face, is a sad indictment on the societal conditions in Pakistan.  Gujranwala Police have set a good precedent and their professionalism has averted significant violence.  However, a concerted grass-roots programme is required to instil convictions of interfaith harmony amongst the polarised communities  living in a nation riven with conflict.  

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