Sangla Hill incident: Hunger strike held to protest ‘govt inaction’ and Missionary organisations announce protest on January 7


LAHORE: Demonstrators held a hunger strike in front of the Lahore Press Club on Sunday to protest the government's inaction in the Sangla Hill incident. Missionary organisations have also announced a protest on January 7 in Lahore, if the issue is not resolved by that time. Lahore Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha praised the protestors for their "sacrifice to ensure peace and justice", saying that the Church supported their cause. He called the Sangla Hill inquiry "a test case" for the state's treatment of the minorities, and urged the government to deliver. Speakers at the hunger strike camp called for an end to religious intolerance in the country. Representatives of a number of political parties and civil society groups participated in the camp and demanded the arrest of those responsible for the incident. A mob of around 3,000 people set fire to three churches and homes of two clergymen, and destroyed a nursing hostel, nuns' hostel, a convent school and four other houses in the Sangla Hill area of district Nankana on November 12. Sources said that the findings of an inquiry by a Sessions judge of the Nankana Sahib district court have not been disclosed. They said that the report was sent to President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz more than two weeks ago, but the federal government has not taken any action so far. Sources said that the All Pakistan Council of Churches also wrote a letter to the president to urge him to ensure the arrest of those involved in the incident. Speakers at the hunger strike camp said that Yousaf Masih is being held by police under Section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code, which requires a preliminary inquiry by a senior superintendent of police. They said that no such inquiry was held, and demanded his immediate release. They also asked the government to make public the inquiry on the incident. They said that 86 Muslims had been arrested for the burnings without an inquiry, while the police "wasted" evidence by delaying the investigation. The reconstruction of the destroyed churches and schools has been hampered due to a lack of funds, they said. The leaders at the hunger strike said that shopkeepers in the city were recently found using paper bags without pictures of sacred Christian icons on them, but the government had taken no notice of several complaints in this regard. They said that the area's priest had also received threatening calls on December 28, but the law-enforcement authorities had taken no action.

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