Pak minorities ask govt. for protection following increased sense of insecurity
Washington, Mar. 15 : Pakistan's religious minorities, particularly Christians and Shiite Muslims, have said their communities are feeling an increasing sense of siege, and are calling on the government to do more to protect them, following the recent attack on Christians in Lahore.
On Saturday, a mob of over 3000 people burned and ransacked more than 160 Christian houses and two small churches in Joseph Colony, an impoverished enclave in the Pakistani city of Lahore, after a Christian man was accused of committing blasphemy against Prophet Mohammad, reports the Wall Street Journal.
Siddique John, a Lahore-based minority-rights activist who witnessed the unrest, said things have reached a tipping point for Pakistan's Christian minority, which makes up around 2 percent of the nation's 190 million people.
The latest unrest takes place ahead of a political transition, with general elections expected in mid-May. Minority activists blame the government for failing to stem the violence.
Father Rehmt, the priest at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Islamabad, said there is a lack of will on the part of the government to provide legal protection to Christians.
Fizza Hazzan, a teacher and member of Shiite community in Islamabad said there has been complete apathy on the part of the government.
Sunni militants killed more than 400 Shiites in targeted attacks in Pakistan in 2012-the largest annual total-according to the advocacy group Human Rights Watch.
This year, nearly 250 people have been already killed in three separate attacks on Shiite communities in Quetta and Karachi.
Pakistan's Shiite Hazaras have been particularly hard hit. In January, after a bomb ripped through a largely Hazara neighborhood in the southwestern city of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, killing over 90 people, Hazaras refused to bury their dead for several days in protest against what they said was government inaction.
Observers said the blasphemy accusations, and their consequences, illustrated how radicals could use minor incidents to incite violence.