Clashes erupt between Muslims, Christians in Pak, 9 killed

Last Updated: Saturday, August 1, 2009 - 20:35

Lahore: At least nine persons died on Saturday in
police firing and violent clashes between Muslims and the
minority Christian community in Pakistan`s Punjab province
following the alleged desecration of the holy Quran.

Hundreds of Muslims gathered this morning and marched
towards Christian homes at Azafi Abadi village, 160 km from
Lahore. Witnesses said at least three persons were killed and
some others injured when police fired at a mob that was trying
to forcibly enter the homes of Christians.

The bodies of six Christians – three women, two children
and a man – were pulled out of houses that were set alight by
the mob. Officials said they feared the toll could rise as the
rubble of some 70 burnt houses is yet to be cleared.

Eighteen people, including policemen, were injured in
the clashes between the two groups. The mob also looted over
100 houses.

Witnesses said at least five persons were injured when
the two groups exchanged fire this afternoon. Reports also
said two senior police officers were injured in the clashes.

A mob had yesterday burnt over 70 houses of Christians
at Azafi Abadi over an alleged incident of desecration of the
Quran. Muslims set on fire another 15 houses of Christians
today.

Violence erupted in the area when a group of Muslims
alleged that three Christians had burnt pages of the Quran at
a wedding ceremony.

Beleaguered law enforcement personnel have roped in
Muslim clerics and elders of the Christian community to calm
tensions between the two sides.

Rana Sanaullah, the Law Minister of Punjab, described
the violence as a "conspiracy against Pakistan" and called for
restraint. He said no Christian was involved in desecrating
the Quran.

"Strict action will taken against those involved in
violence," he said.

The Bishop of Lahore, Alexander John Malik, condemned
the attack on Christians, saying it was the second instance of
violence against the community within a month.

"The fanatics are attacking minorities, which is a
deplorable act. The government should take serious action
against extremists who are targeting Christians and burning
their houses," he said. Christians would launch "strong
protests at every level," he added.

During yesterday`s violence, a mob blocked the main road
to prevent fire tenders from entering the village. Local
politicians and clerics succeeded in calming tensions late
last night but they flared again this morning.

When the mob began marching towards the homes of
Christians this morning, police initially fired in the air.
When this failed to disperse the protestors, police fired at
the mob, witnesses said.

Aslam Sahothra, general secretary of the Human
Liberation Commission of Pakistan told a news agency that police had
failed to protect the life and property of minorities.

Beleaguered law enforcement personnel have roped in
Muslim clerics and elders of the Christian community to calm
tensions between the two sides.

Rana Sanaullah, the Law Minister of Punjab, described
the violence as a "conspiracy against Pakistan" and called for
restraint. He said no Christian was involved in desecrating
the Quran.

"Strict action will taken against those involved in
violence," he said.

The Bishop of Lahore, Alexander John Malik, condemned
the attack on Christians, saying it was the second instance of
violence against the community within a month.

"The fanatics are attacking minorities, which is a
deplorable act. The government should take serious action
against extremists who are targeting Christians and burning
their houses," he said. Christians would launch "strong
protests at every level," he added.

During yesterday`s violence, a mob blocked the main road
to prevent fire tenders from entering the village. Local
politicians and clerics succeeded in calming tensions late
last night but they flared again this morning.

When the mob began marching towards the homes of
Christians this morning, police initially fired in the air.
When this failed to disperse the protestors, police fired at
the mob, witnesses said.

Aslam Sahothra, general secretary of the Human
Liberation Commission of Pakistan told a news agency that police had
failed to protect the life and property of minorities.

Bureau Report



First Published: Saturday, August 1, 2009 - 20:35

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