13 June | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

Experts point out errors in police inquiry after mob burn churches, Christian houses

CSJ Executive Director Peter Jacob demands a fair and impartial investigation in all blasphemy related cases; Bishop Azad Marshal says religious minorities are forced to become ‘second-class’ citizens

A penal of experts, including Justice (retired) Nasira Javed Iqbal, Advocate Hina Jillani, Advocate Jamshed Rehmat Ullah, Bishop Azad Marshal, Peter Jacob and Advocate Saroop Ijaz, concluded in a people’s inquiry report about countering religion-based violence that the police version regarding the investigation has been shifting from one assumption to the other, from foreign conspiracy to honor crime to personal interests in the Jaranwala incident.

The recent police version in the investigation does not support the assertion made by the Inspector General of Punjab Police regarding involvement of foreign elements in the Jaranwala violence, for which he is yet to present any proof. The eye-witnesses as well as the victims confirmed in their testimonies that the mob violence in Jaranwala was a pre-planned activity for ‘political’ motives.

In testimonies, victims and eye-witnesses term mob violence in Jaranwala as a pre-planned activity for ‘political’ motives

Through planted charges, the police were reluctant to apprehend the actual perpetrators of incitement, according to the inquiry. “A narrative emboldens the extremist outfits politicizing accusations on one hand, and victimizing members of the Christian community in Sargodha and Jaranwala on the other hand,” it said. The inquiry observed that the police were making a conscious attempt to cover up the mob violence.

It said that the police have understated the looting of belongings, destruction, and arson of Churches and Christian houses in Jaranwala, and they were carrying out illegal arbitrary detentions of men, women, and children in the name of investigation, which seems to be an attempt to pressurize the Christians not to pursue cases and seek justice.

Speaking on the occasion, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) Executive Director Peter Jacob demanded a fair and impartial investigation in all cases involving blasphemy accusations. Bishop Azad Marshal stated that it was proven time and again that accusations were fabricated against minorities and some quarters were manipulating legal procedures while religious minorities were forced to become second-class citizens.

Hina Jillani asks civil society and human rights institutions to monitor Jaranwala to ensure a fair investigation and trials

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Chairperson Hina Jillani stated that civil society condemns the lawlessness, particularly the arbitrary detentions of children and women in Jaranwala. She encouraged civil society and human rights institutions to monitor the situation to ensure a fair and transparent investigation and trial. The victims and witnesses stated that it was the failure and indifference of the police that made mob violence and looting possible.

The police illegally detained those Christians for several days in the name of investigation who were not nominated in FIR, including men, women, and children. Although 36 detainees were released, however, many are still in police custody, according to reports. Also, the experts observed that the incidents involving blasphemy accusations in different parts of Punjab have created a ‘social apartheid’ for the minorities.

‘Christian students are reluctant to join schools to avoid discrimination and intolerance after Jaranwala incident’

It said that the Christian students were reluctant to continue their education in schools due to a discrimination and intolerance they had to face after Jaranwala incident. It can be reported that some of greengrocers and shopkeepers refuse to sell eatables to Christians, and employers deny employment to Christian workers.

Prof Anjum James Paul, Samuel Pyara, Lala Robin Daniel, Michelle Chaudhry, Eiga Kenny, Qammar Suleman, and Advocate Haroon Ranjha gave their testimonies, and journalists Sher Ali Khalti and Xari Jalil asked questions and gave their analysis in people’s inquiry by the Centre for Social Justice, Peace & Justice Network (PJN) and the Joint Action Committee for People’s Rights (JAC).

‘Some greengrocers and shopkeepers refuse to sell eatables to Christians, and employers deny employment to Christian workers’

A fact sheet – Provided We Learn – was issued that documented the incidence of religion-based violence, targeting faith minorities on the pretext of accusations. The participants resolved that they would strive to uphold truth, uphold the standards of justice, and continue to engage in litigation and advocacy efforts for the cause of equality of rights and citizenship.

They demanded the introduction of safeguards against the misuse of blasphemy laws. The participants demanded end to the religious apartheid, and asked the leadership to make serious efforts to live up to their claims about the protection of all the minorities.