Religious intolerance on the rise, Minorities under attack during caricature protests.


LAHORE: There have been six major incidents where churches were burned and other crimes against minorities committed in February when Pakistanis protested against the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) published in various Western newspapers.

Incidents include attacks on and the burning of at least four churches and attacks on the places of worship and educational institutions of other religions, which were all committed by individuals or mobs across Pakistan. Several Interior Ministry officials told Daily Times that the government had noted the incidents and quarters concerned had been given directions. About whether the incidents were becoming a set pattern, the officials said the government was looking into all aspects. The following is a brief of anti-minority incidents: Attack on church in Sargodha: Several people set fire to a church in Noori Gate in Sargodha city on February 28, 2006. Reports said the assailants entered the church after scaling its wall at about 5:00am and set it on fire after sprinkling petrol on its doors, windows and furniture. District authorities reached the spot and assured Christians the church would be rebuilt on official expense. Police has registered a case. Attacks on churches in Sukkur: Two churches and one school including Saint Mary's Church and St Xavier's Church and St Mary's School in Sukkur (built in 1889) were attacked in Sukkur (Sindh) on February 19, 2006. The mobs stole holy articles and set church vehicles on fire, damaged the school hall and destroyed a pastor's house. The mobs manipulated the atmosphere created by the caricature issue and attacked the three buildings. However, the actual reason behind the attacks was that Irfan, a Muslim convert, lied about his Christian father-in-law (Saleem) burning of a copy of the Quran. Irfan confessed the same day before police and local officials of lying. Police arrested 23 people on February 20 in connection with the attacks. Sindh Chief Minister Dr Arbab Rahim promised to rebuild the churches and school on state expense. Hate crime: Several unidentified men stopped Christian singer A Nayyar in Lahore on February 18, beat him and forced him to recite the kalma (Islamic proclamation of faith). The singer is reluctant to take legal action against the unidentified people. Attacks during protests: St Michael's Convent School, Elizabeth Girls High School, Edward Boys College and a mission hospital were badly damaged during protests on February 15, 2006, in Peshawar. Protesters also damaged a church and school buildings in Mardan. A Christian girls school run by United Presbyterian Church in Kasur, 40 km from Lahore, was also attacked and damaged. The Edward Boys College administration started repairing the building, but the government did not offer any compensation. However, St Michael's School, run by the Presentation Sisters, was promised reconstruction funds. Youhanabad, Lahore: Police picked up Mohsin, a Christian and owner of a net cafe, on February 16 after a Muslim boy accused him (Mohsin) of showing caricatures of the Prophet (PBUH) on the Internet. Police also arrested the complainant and found that the allegations were baseless. Mohsin, a resident of Youhanabad, which is the largest majority Christian area (about 0.2 million) in Lahore, spent several days in fear of a reprisal. Police resolved the case and helped avert a potential Christian-Muslim clash in Lahore. Attack on church in Daska: A Catholic Church was attacked in Kanwanlit, Sialkot district, on February 3. Church furniture, windows and religious books were destroyed. The attack was in consequence to a land dispute. Two elderly women including 70-year-old Veero were injured in the incident. (Daily Times)

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