By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– A Christian Pakistani politician accused security forces on Friday, October 7, of refusing to detain Muslim fighters who allegedly shot dead one Christian and injured over 20 others in Pakistan’s Punjab province.
Nazir S. Bhatti, the president of the Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC) party, told BosNewsLife that local police also declined to investigate the October 5 violence in Chak 134-16/L village, in Punjab’s southern Mian Channu area of Khanewal District.
“The First Information Report (FIR)” [from the survivors] was [so far] not registered with the local police station,” he confirmed in an interview.
The murdered Christian, identified as Sabir Masih, was gunned down and “two dozen Christians including children, men and women were seriously injured” when Muslims attacked Christians “to grab a piece of land bought for a social project”, he added.
CHURCH PURCHASED LAND
Local Christians said a local church purchased the land to build an orphanage, but an influential Muslim allegedly hired “Muslim gangs to use force” to grab this land.
It was difficult to reach police for comment and it was not clear which group had opened fire on the Christian villagers.
Bhatti complained that “Muslims were pressing police to register the case as sectarian riots among two communities instead of an attack by Muslims [against Christians].”
He said the PCC and other advocacy groups have “condemned this attack and demand the arrest of the killers.”
It comes amid concerns among local Christians about what they view as rising Islamic extremism in the Asian nation following attacks against churches.
Christians comprise less than 5 percent of Pakistan’s over 187 million people who are mainly Muslim, according to estimates by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The federal government is under international pressure to increase the rights of Christians and other religious minorities.
There is also a debate over controversial blasphemy legislation under which several Christians have been detained and even sentenced to death, including Christian mother Asia Bibi, who has appealed the death sentence.
Additionally, several Christians accused of blasphemy against Islam have either been killed in and outside prison by extremists, according to rights groups and local Christians.
“I demand a repeal of the blasphemy law,” said Bhatti, a Christian, who himself was forced to flee Pakistan to the United States after he openly criticized the legislation.
Earlier this year Muslim militant killed Pakistan’s only known Christian government minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Punjab province governor Salman Taseer for opposing the blasphemy law.
Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, who is believed to have killed Taseer, announced through his lawyer Friday, October 7, that he would appeal the death sentence given this by a terror court this week in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, near Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.