08/01/2009, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Muslims burn 75 Christian homes and 2 churches in Punjab

by Fareed Khan
An alleged accusation of blasphemy sparks violence. The Pakistani president Zardari assures compensation for damages to the victims and sent the Minister for Minorities and Human Rights to express the government’s solidarity with the Christian community attacked.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - A crowd of Muslims looted and set on fire 75 houses of Christians and burned two churches in the village of Korian, Toba Tek Singh District in Punjab. Charges of alleged blasphemy against Mukhtar Masih, Talib Masih and the latter's son, Imran Maseeh unleashed the violent attack. The three hare accused of having desecrated the Koran during a wedding ceremony.

According to local sources, the attackers came from a village near Korian. On July 30 they raided the homes of Christians and a group of them tried to stage a sort of public trial to extort apologies from Talib Masih for the act of which he was accused. The crowd then blocked the road connecting Faisalabad to Gojra and the entrance to the barracks of the village firemen, hampering rescue efforts to extinguish fires.

The Pakistani president, Asif Ali Zardari, has expressed serious concern over the incident: "It is a fact that goes against the spirit of Islam and the rules of civil society where laws are manipulated and the members of a minority are subjected to violence on the basis of real or alleged crimes".  

Zardari has asked the local authorities for a detailed report of the July 31 incident and sent the minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, as well as the minister for human rights, Kamran Michael, to express the closeness of the government to the attacked Christian community. They have ensured that victims will receive compensation for damage suffered.

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