Last Updated: August 20, 2023, 06:26 IST
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Saturday strongly condemned the mob attack on a Christian community in Pakistan’s Punjab province. This condemnation follows an enraged Muslim mob’s torching of 21 churches and dozens of Christian homes last week over blasphemy allegations in Jaranwala town of Faisalabad district. Human rights groups heavily criticised the Islamic Republic for failing to safeguard the minority community.
The provincial police in Punjab stated on Thursday that they have arrested over 140 people, including two prime suspects, involved in the unprecedented attacks on churches and nearly three dozen minority homes. The UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement, called for respecting religious symbols, avoiding incitement, and preventing polarisation.
The violence inflicted damage and destruction, prompting Christians to seek safer locations. The incident drew domestic and international condemnation, with appeals for Pakistan to reconsider its blasphemy laws.
This incident underlined concerns about religious tensions and the repercussions of accusations under the country’s strict legal framework. Several rights groups have also called for the repeal of Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws, raising concerns about potential misuse. These laws allow death sentences for those convicted of insulting Islam or its religious figures.
Human rights advocates assert that these allegations are exploited to target religious minorities and settle personal conflicts. Not only has the state failed to protect its religious minorities, but it has also allowed the far right to permeate and fester within society and politics, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).
“Both the perpetrators and instigators of this violence must be identified and punished to the full extent of the law. The government must waste no time in raising and equipping special police forces to protect religious minorities’ sites of worship as directed by the 2014 Supreme Court judgment,” the HRCP said in a statement posted on social media platform X.
The newly appointed caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar said the interim government would not support “the forces of darkness” in the society as he took strong exception to the unprecedented attack on minority Christians in the Muslim-majority country.
“The minorities will stay protected in this country. There may be an attempt to harm them from a section of marginalised and peripheral groups of people, but that would be responded to sternly and strictly,” Kakar said during his maiden federal Cabinet meeting.
(With inputs from Shalinder Wangu)