Christians protest in Pakistan against Muslim violence

Rick Moran
There were dozens of Christian houses torched over the weekend in Lahore after an apaprent false charge of blasphemy was leveled against a Christian.

Police say they have 150 in custody who will be charged with terrorism. But the protest by hundreds of Christians was also against the inability - and reluctance - of Pakistani authorities to prosecute crimes against Christians.

CNN:

Outraged Pakistani Christians took to the streets of Lahore on Sunday, protesting a rash of violence against their community over the weekend.

Demonstrators denounced the burning of more than 100 homes of Christians on Saturday -- a spree spurred by allegations that a Christian man made remarks against the Muslim prophet Mohammed.

Some of the hundreds of protesters Sunday threw stones at police, saying the government failed to adequately protect Christians, Lahore senior police official Rai Tahir said.

Tahir said video footage of the fires helped lead to the arrests of more than 150 attackers. He said charges of terrorism have been filed against the suspects.

The violence that tore through Lahore's Badami Bagh community Saturday followed the arrest of Sawan Masih, a Christian in his 20s accused of blasphemy.

But Masih's arrest wasn't enough to appease an angry mob of Muslims irate over the alleged crime.

"(The) mob wanted police to hand them over the alleged blasphemer," said Hafiz Majid, a senior police official in Badami Bagh.

The mob also looted some shops run by Christians, he said.

Majid said Christians have fled the area for fear of being killed.

If convicted, Masih faces the death penalty.

He denies the allegations made by the two men who filed the blasphemy complaint against him with police on Friday, Majid said.

Masih said the three got into an argument while drinking and that the other two men threatened to publicly accuse him of blasphemy, according to Majid.

"The attack is yet another shameful incident against a vulnerable community and further confirmation of the slide toward extremism in society on the one hand and, on the other hand, the apathy and inaction that has become the norm among the police," the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in a statement.

The group accused police of arresting Christians in the incident "while those who went on a rampage and can easily be identified from television footage have gone scot-free." 

Pakistan is sliding into extremism as its central government, weakened by charges of corruption, has failed to rein in Islamists who attack not only Christians, but Shia Muslims and those of other faiths. As the government loses authority, the radicals are gaining power and influence.

A nuclear armed nation losing ground to extremists is not a recipe for stability in a very troubled region.

There were dozens of Christian houses torched over the weekend in Lahore after an apaprent false charge of blasphemy was leveled against a Christian.

Police say they have 150 in custody who will be charged with terrorism. But the protest by hundreds of Christians was also against the inability - and reluctance - of Pakistani authorities to prosecute crimes against Christians.

CNN:

Outraged Pakistani Christians took to the streets of Lahore on Sunday, protesting a rash of violence against their community over the weekend.

Demonstrators denounced the burning of more than 100 homes of Christians on Saturday -- a spree spurred by allegations that a Christian man made remarks against the Muslim prophet Mohammed.

Some of the hundreds of protesters Sunday threw stones at police, saying the government failed to adequately protect Christians, Lahore senior police official Rai Tahir said.

Tahir said video footage of the fires helped lead to the arrests of more than 150 attackers. He said charges of terrorism have been filed against the suspects.

The violence that tore through Lahore's Badami Bagh community Saturday followed the arrest of Sawan Masih, a Christian in his 20s accused of blasphemy.

But Masih's arrest wasn't enough to appease an angry mob of Muslims irate over the alleged crime.

"(The) mob wanted police to hand them over the alleged blasphemer," said Hafiz Majid, a senior police official in Badami Bagh.

The mob also looted some shops run by Christians, he said.

Majid said Christians have fled the area for fear of being killed.

If convicted, Masih faces the death penalty.

He denies the allegations made by the two men who filed the blasphemy complaint against him with police on Friday, Majid said.

Masih said the three got into an argument while drinking and that the other two men threatened to publicly accuse him of blasphemy, according to Majid.

"The attack is yet another shameful incident against a vulnerable community and further confirmation of the slide toward extremism in society on the one hand and, on the other hand, the apathy and inaction that has become the norm among the police," the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said in a statement.

The group accused police of arresting Christians in the incident "while those who went on a rampage and can easily be identified from television footage have gone scot-free." 

Pakistan is sliding into extremism as its central government, weakened by charges of corruption, has failed to rein in Islamists who attack not only Christians, but Shia Muslims and those of other faiths. As the government loses authority, the radicals are gaining power and influence.

A nuclear armed nation losing ground to extremists is not a recipe for stability in a very troubled region.