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Thursday 4 April 2013

Continued attacks on Christians of Pakistan - Gujranwala siege so soon after Lahore attack

Islamabad Pakistan (Shamim Masih): On Wednesday, 3 April 2013 afternoon, Wilson asked me to check if something happened against Christians of Gujranwala. I called one of my friends Eugien John in Gujranwala, who confirmed  the incident. So I started my journey with Tariq Chaman (Editor Punjab Express) towards Gujranwala after been given instructed by Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA).

According to Eugien John, a violent Muslim mob attacked  Christian colony named Francis Abad during Wednesday afternoon.

Eugien John said

"A mob damaged shops, houses and vehicles belonging to the Christians of the area following a clash between the youths of the two communities last night. It’s interesting that some of the Christian boys provided resistance and prevented another tragedy. Despairingly the police stood back as bystanders for over two hours, while mosque speakers were used to ferment hate"

Before  leaving from Islamabad, I asked Basharat Khokhar (Police Constable and Christian Activist) to keep in touch with the police high official. He spoke to them and remained in touch whilst covering the incident.

On reaching there, Saif Ullah Virk - SHO of the local police station spoke to us, he said,

"Two boys from the Christians community were confronted by  local Muslims boys for playing Christian songs while travelling in a Chand Gari ( motorcycle led rickshaw).  The incident escalated when the Muslim youths called their friends to the scene and informed the local clerics.  What followed was a renewed attack on minorities."

A violent Muslim mob mainly of youths and young men attacked a Christian locality in Francis abad, Sheikhupura road Gujranwala.  They caused damage to shops, houses and vehicles belonging to the local Christians. As word spread of the incident and a stand off - after Christian Youths formed a protective barrier, the Police intervened and stopped the affray becoming another Badami Bagh incident.

Mr Mushtaq a prominent local residents said;

“Our boys were travelling by chand gari and playing religious songs (geet), Muslim boys objected to their playing music on chand gari. The boys turned off the music at that moment but switched it on again after covering some distance. The cleric raised a clamor and accused the boys of showing disrespect to Islam. As words spread of the incident, we immediately went to the police post in our colony and shared our security concerns with them. The police told us not to worry and assured us that they would hold the situation but no measures were taken,” 

Pastor Morris from FGA church said;

"Around 2pm, a Muslim mob from the nearby Naroki village attacked the neighborhood, ransacking shops, houses and around 5-7 vehicles parked on the road. We saw a police mobile vehicle in the area at a check post.  Although parked in the vicinity the Police vehicle did not intervene and let the mob damage our property,”

He further commented;

"The mob dispersed after local Christians took out their weapons and started firing in the air to deter them."

Father Shakil said;

"After playing the role of a silent spectator, the police took action and resorted to aerial firing and hurling stones indiscriminately at the mob to disperse it. The mob also pelted stones back at the police."

Shamoon s/o Inayat, Asher s/o Aashiq, Marqas Javaid and Rani Joseph were injured during the incident and were taken to the nearest hospital. We remained there till 2 am.  A heavy police presence is stationed in the area to keep the situation under control. Christian youngsters (volunteers) were also patrolling there. So far the situation is under control but there is significant fear that violence will erupt in the area again as threats have been made to the community.

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