Gojra slaughter: Keeping the faith

Published: May 1, 2011

Eight Christians, including four women and a child, were burnt alive when attackers set 40 houses and a church ablaze in Gojra.

While the reopening of the Bhutto case has the courts frothing and fulminating and the newspaper headlines screaming, perhaps one should give thought to another case, in which, little progress has been made in bringing justice.

I speak of the Gojra case of 2009, in which hundreds of people were initially charged with murder and violence in a Christian neighbourhood in the town situated in Toba Tek Singh district. Eight Christians, including four women and a child, were burnt alive when attackers set 40 houses and a church ablaze following allegations that members of a local Christian family had desecrated a copy of the Holy Quran.

The perpetrators of this monstrous violence are set to go unpunished. Some of the Christian families who suffered at Gojra have fled the country. Others have been harassed and intimidated into withdrawing their cases. But it is not just these families whose fate hangs in the balance at Gojra, it is, quite substantively, our fate as a nation.

The year 2010 was a particularly bad year for minorities in Pakistan, and regrettably, 2011 was no better. It began with the assassination of Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti. Not only have the police failed to protect minorities, they are often complicit in framing false charges against them.

Given that our military is engaged in fighting a war against religious extremists, one would think that the state would support the military’s fight with strong statements and follow-up actions for minorities and religious freedom. Unfortunately that has not happened. Even as they lament the persecution and ostracism of Muslims in the west, Muslims in Pakistan routinely maltreat religious minorities. Several Ahmadis were killed in various incidents of violence during 2010 while dozens of members of the Hindu community in Balochistan migrated to India because they no longer felt safe living in Pakistan.

At such a time, what could be achieved by pushing forward with the Gojra case and punishing the culprits? Though it might not immediately erase the memory of lawyers showering petals on Salman Taseer’s killer, it would restore a measure of trust in the legal system and stem the spread of extremist thought. At the very least, it may prevent the flight of many more members of religious minorities from Pakistan.

Batool.Zehra

Batool Zehra

A sub-editor on the magazine of The Express Tribune.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ali

    Although its a nice thought and must happen but we all know that it is nothing more than a joke to demand this in this GORFORSAKEN country. We are unable to hang a criminal who openly killed a Governer and confessed in the courts. Recommend

  • parvez

    Your article is very well written and you say what needs to be said and done. In reality, when you see what is happening to women and their rights and to the minority by those who are entrusted to make law’s and those entrusted to uphold and implement them, you simply can not feel even an iota optimism.Recommend

  • http://www.tanzeel.wordpress.com Tanzeel
  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/242/nicholas-sharaf/ Nicholas Sharaf

    Why expect change from a nation of bigots?Recommend

  • http://London Hasan

    Cases of attacks on Christians happen all the time. Unfortunately local media blacks out most of these incidents. One such incident reported in international press;

    Police on Saturday arrested several
    stone-wielding demonstrators who
    smashed up a Christian school and
    attempted to attack a church following
    protests against the alleged
    desecration of a Qur’an.

    A crowd of around 500 gathered in the
    suburbs of Gujranwala district near
    Lahore, the main town of central
    Punjab province, after two burnt pages
    of the Islamic holy book were
    recovered from a Christian graveyard,
    police said.

    Local clerics blamed the Christian
    community for the incident and used
    speeches at mosques on Saturday
    morning to inform others and call a
    protest against the alleged blasphemy.

    In the afternoon, more than 500 rock
    and stone carrying demonstrators
    marched towards a church and attempted
    to attack it after smashing a
    Christian missionary school, police
    said.

    Christian school attacked in Pakistan, arrests: policeRecommend

  • faraz

    Forget about the illeterate masses, i see educated people who hate non-muslims and use contemptuous terms like kafirs for them. For a non-muslim, this country is a dangerous place to live, even the medieval monarchy of Saudi arabia provides better security to non-muslims than pakistanRecommend

  • Junaid

    @faraz. how many non-muslims are killed since Pakistan came into existence??

    have you ever noticed how many MINORITIES are killed in India?

    I am not saying that killing of these people is right, do doubt this is a criminal act but the way you said, it sounds strange. I have non-Muslim friends and I have shared the same spoon with them.

    If a person is Kafir then he is a Kafir. We are supposed to call him a Kafir, what a big deal in that?

    just don’t blast ur mouth over some incidents, we live in Pakistan and that is unfortunately most of the time safe for those who have power, if I am a Muslim that doesn’t make me safe and a non-Muslim is unsafe.

    This is a Problem with Pakistan, I request u and all non-Muslim communities living here in Pakistan that lets look for some solution for all this you guys are not alone we are in same problem too. We are facing issues like Religion, sect, race and lots of minor issues which we all know are created by a specific group who want to destabilize Pakistan, we can prevent that from our good deeds and by joining hands together, but not by blaming each other.

    MAY ALLAH SAVE US N OUR COUNTRY
    AAMEENRecommend

  • swa

    @faraz:
    this country is not even safe for Muslims sir…the sunni ppl call the shia ppl KAFIRs and vice versa….GOD knws how much longer can we survive like thisRecommend

  • mussarat Hussain

    Extremists have forgotten the lesson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who stood for protecting rights of minorities, poor and neglected segments of the society. Islam even stands for the rights of the animals which are not being practiced in letter and spirit in our society.

    Only those actions have branded Islam a violent and an intolerant religion.

    Killers who are involved in genocide and killing innocent people for their vested interests are none other than Pakistani and Muslims.

    What can we expect from society where killers are garlanded and Apex courts are scared of
    punishing them. Pakistan is a country where cats are scared of mice, lions of dogs and men of injustice, justice of terrorists and Terrorists from none even The God, sorry to say.

    MussaratRecommend

  • http://London Hasan

    @Junaid:

    how many non-muslims are killed since
    Pakistan came into existence??

    have you ever noticed how many
    MINORITIES are killed in India?

    What has situation in India got to do with what is going on in Pakistan?

    But go ahead and give us the precise figure if you are keeping it. India is a much bigger country than Pakistan with a sizeable Muslim population so naturally the scale is bigger. Also there is no Blasphemy law in India and all citizens are equal in the law in India unlike Pakistan. Some incidents like Godhra were apparently initiated by Muslims by burning Hindus in the first place thus inciting Hindus to react.

    India over time is improving as anyone can see however Pakistan is getting worst by the day.Recommend

  • Nicholas Sharaf

    @Junaid,

    People of the book aren’t Kafir. It is bigoted thinking like yours that has cost Non-Muslim Pakistanis so much in this country. You speak of finding resolve while carrying a mallet to bust open heads.

    Who are you to call us Minorities or Kafirs? We were promised first grade citizenship when we voted for Pakistan, votes that made the advent of Pakistan possible, while your clerics and religious leaders were busy shouting support for the Congress. You need a history lesson, Pakistan needs a history lesson.

    This country of bigots has altered history books just to feed their complex of being in power.Recommend

  • Muhammad Junaid Akhter

    @Nicholas, not me its you and other who call themselves Minorities!. and btw minority is such a term u can get a definition of that very easily. be calm and read my comment OK. I am not getting why are you roasted on my comment, i don’t see anything like that in it. I am a normal citizen like you here in Pakistan, I cannot give or take ur rights.

    replying to faraz i used the word kafir for his statement. he didn’t talked about people of books specifically right? c his comment

    “You speak of finding resolve while carrying a mallet to bust open heads. ” are you sick? read my comment and let me know from which statement of mine you extracted this conclusion that m kind of a man?

    Chill, read well before reply bro. And try to be Pakistani

    @Hasan
    “India is a much bigger country than Pakistan with a sizable Muslim population so naturally the scale is bigger”, r u trying to say its ok population is bigger no worries if they kill some hundred more??Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/242/nicholas-sharaf/ Nicholas Sharaf

    @Junaid

    My God. Your conclusions are as absurd as you are bigoted. Recommend

  • Muhammad Junaid Akhter

    @Nicholas, am sure u don’t want to listen / understands wht m saying thts y u r saying such stuff. what do u think about urself ? u sounds more absurd then myself.

    GET WELL SOON.

    don’t wana arg with such a person who just want other to say yes sir u r right!Recommend

  • faraz

    @Junaid

    This argument is absurd that minorities get killed elsewhere so we shouldn’t feel ashamed at minorities getting killed inside Pakistan. And how do I sound strange? If you share a spoon with non-Muslim friends, then that’s excellent but you don’t represent the majority. The majority treats non-Muslims with contempt due to their religion. Most of non-Muslims belong to the poorest sections of the society so people have no problem in openly expressing their hatred for them. Only God knows who will end up in hell. By just being born into a Muslim family is no achievement. Similarly, being born into a non-Muslim family won’t automatically throw you in hell. It’s a matter of luck; you don’t choose the family you are born in. If in the 21st century, don’t you feel disgusted at such medieval style pogroms? What’s wrong with the way I feel about it? You are right about the general violence in the society but you must speak up for the most suppressed sections of the society; it won’t bring any shame to the country. Btw, most of the Muslims consider non-Muslim people of book as kafirs; it’s good that you don’t.Recommend

  • Muhammad Junaid Akhter

    @faraz and Nich … oo dearzz I AM XTREMELY SORRY, i failed to make my point clear… you are talking about shame but let me b clear with the fact tht I am against this killing … killing of anyone not only specific to Muslims OK. I from my first comment was trying to say that ok if bad has had happened to someone then only crying on that isn’t good and lets try to find solution for it together. nothing else.

    MAY ALLAH BLESS ALL OF US.Recommend

  • mussarat Hussain

    @Junaid:

    The so-called Muslims are trying to capture “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”.

    No doubt India is manifold bigger than India in every sense, largest population and the largest
    Minority of Muslims than those living in Pakistan who are safer in that country while “Kalma Go”
    are killing other muslims without any let and hindrance.

    India has the largest Democracy in the world where multi-ethnic and multi-religion people are living with peace and honor. No Hindu is Killing other Hindu or no man is killing another man.

    God Bless Pakistan, amen.

    MussaratRecommend

  • BM

    The strength and character of a nation is depicted by how it treats its minorities, not the majority. Our track record in this area isn’t great.

    Has anyone wondered how come the approximate 22% minorities at the time of partition are now no more than 5% of the population? I agree with the author, we need exemplary punishment for people who create mass hysteria in the name of religion and end up killing innocent people by mob action. In the case of Gojra, these culprits are clearly identified and well documented. Recommend