50 people arrested in Pakistan for torching Christian home

Lahore: 50 people have been arrested in Lahore after a mob torched over 150 homes of the minority Christian community in search of an alleged blasphemer.

On Saturday, the mob returned to Joseph Colony in the morning and drove out all Christian families that were still in the area.

Footage on television showed masked men armed with sticks rampaging through the neighbourhood, setting houses and cars on fire. The police did little to stop the mob.

The Christians sat amidst smouldering debris at Joseph Colony, which was attacked by a mob of over 3,000 on Saturday, and said their houses were systematically looted before being set on fire.

Many women broke down and wept, saying their entire lives’ savings and jewellery were stolen.

Though Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had announced on Saturday that a relief camp would be set up for the victims, the Christians said they were yet to receive any aid from authorities.

Last night, the Christians forced relief workers to leave the area and refused to accept food sent by the administration.

Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and Hamza Shahbaz, the Chief Minister’s son, were mobbed when they visited Joseph Colony.

The Christians shouted slogans against the government and said police had failed to act while their homes were being burnt.

Riaz Masih, a Christian whose house was torched, told The Express Tribune that a majority of the mob that attacked Joseph Colony on Saturday were Pashtun labourers.

Ahmad Raza, in-charge of rescue operations, told the media that 160 homes, 18 shops and two small churches were burnt by the mob.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan put the number of torched homes at more than 100.

HRCP chief Zohra Yusuf said the Punjab government had “totally failed in providing protection to a minority community under siege”.

Rights activists say Pakistan’s blasphemy law is often misused to persecute minorities like Christians and to settle personal scores.

Last year, Rimsha Masih, a mentally challenged teenage Christian girl, was framed for blasphemy by a Muslim cleric in Islamabad.

The girl was later exonerated by a court but she and her family had to go into hiding.

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