A Gruesome Tale of Horror and the Shadows of Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan
A gruesome tale of horror and terror unfolded in Jaranwala, Pakistan, on August 16, 2023, when an enraged mob vandalized and torched at least 21 churches and several houses belonging to Christians. The violence was sparked by allegations of blasphemy, with the mob consisting of hundreds of individuals also targeting the office of the local Assistant Commissioner.
The events were set in motion when news emerged that pages of the Islamic holy book had been desecrated near a house in the Cinema Chowk area of Jaranwala, where two Christian brothers resided. The news quickly spread, triggering anger among the local Muslim population.
Ashan Boota, a Christian resident from a village on the outskirts of Sahiwal, inadvertently shared a blasphemous letter dated August 16, 2023, which quickly became a weapon in the hands of a misguided Muslim mob. His unwitting action immediately drew the ire of local Muslims, leading to his brutal beating and the imposition of serious charges against him.
The situation escalated when members of the religious-political outfit Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) began inciting people to gather at the site of the alleged incident. Consequently, a large and enraged mob assembled outside the house of the Christian brothers, who had already fled. The mob set their house ablaze, marking the beginning of a series of violent incidents.
As more people gathered in Jaranwala, they proceeded to set multiple churches on fire after ransacking them. Witnesses recounted that the houses of Christians were looted of all valuables before being set ablaze. A witness told local media, “The attackers did not belong to this area; they came from somewhere else. We have never seen those people in our area.”
In the wake of the violence, desperate Christian residents from nearby localities fled their homes out of fear for their lives. The mob looted and set their houses on fire, leaving a trail of destruction and misery.
The incident garnered widespread outcry not only from Christians but also from the international community. Anwaar ul Haq Kakar, the Caretaker Pakistani Premier, expressed his distress, and the Chief of Army Staff, General Asim Munir, emphasized that all citizens of the country are equal. Caretaker Chief Minister Punjab Mohsin Naqvi visited Jaranwala and announced compensation and pledged to restore the affected church buildings.
The deeply concerning reality of blasphemy laws in Pakistan persists as a relentless and troubling saga. Originally introduced in the 1980s, these laws have often been exploited for personal and political gain, leading to an alarming number of false accusations.
The Jaranwala incident highlights the misuse of these laws and the unintended consequences of even unintentional actions. The misuse of blasphemy laws often has devastating consequences for the accused and their families, perpetuating an atmosphere of fear and impeding freedom of expression.
Addressing this issue requires a multifaceted approach, including legal reforms and raising awareness about the misuse of blasphemy laws. Balancing the protection of religious sentiments with the fundamental rights of individuals is a delicate task that requires careful consideration and immediate action. Only through comprehensive legal reforms and a collective commitment to uphold justice can Pakistan hope to overcome this troubling chapter in its legal history.
If you would to support our ground team that is providing much relief to these families, please visit this page: Churches in Flames: Stand with Us to Save Christian Lives in Jaranwala – Redeem the Oppressed
Original articles written by our Co-Founder Farrukh Saif on: A Persistent Issue in Pakistan, another case of Blasphemy – ECSPE and Violent Unrest in Jaranwala, Pakistan: Churches Torched Amid Blasphemy Allegations – ECSPE