12/15/2021, 14.59
PAKISTAN
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Muslims attack Christian family, harass women, set house on fire

by Shafique Khokhar

Tariq Pehalwan crashed a wedding party and harassed the women present. After he was removed by Wazir Masih, the owner of the house where celebrations were underway, he came back with a mob, who fired guns, stole money and jewelry, and set the property on fire. The incident took place on 10 December, International Human Rights Day. Christian activists demand justice.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – The latest episode of anti-Christian violence was reported in Farooqabad, not far from Faisalabad, in the Pakistani province of Punjab.

The incident – which occurred last Friday, 10 December, International Human Rights Day – saw a wedding crashed, women harassed, and a house set on fire.

Residents were able to escape but they could have been enveloped in flames and burnt alive had it not been for their quick reflexes.

A group of Muslims, including a policeman suspended from duty, who was helped by colleagues to avoid arrest, attacked the home of Wazir Masih, a Christian sanitation worker, who was celebrating the wedding of his son Ahsan.

The incident began when a Muslim neighbour, Tariq Pehalwan, entered the house, causing mayhem, harassing the women, and throwing them money to lure them.

Shortly after being thrown out, angered, he returned with a dozen people, five of whom are still unknown and armed, and began hitting the guests, firing in the air, and harassing the women, trying to rip their clothes off.

Tariq Pehalwan shouted that those present were participating in a “Christian” celebration and deserved "a lesson", while his associates beat the men and stripped their wives and daughters.

The shots drew the attention of neighbours who started screaming in terror. Meanwhile, Wazir Masih's son called the police, who arrived when the attackers had already fled, after making death threats.

When the agents left, the attackers came back. This time they stole the jewels and money given to the newlyweds, and poured petrol on the furniture and furnishings setting them on fire.

The wedding party managed to escape before the flames completely enveloped them. Thanks to the statements of those present, the Masihs were able to file a First Information Report (FIR) with the police who accepted it only under pressure and after the intervention of some local activists.

The FIR was recorded on 12 December, and several attackers were later arrested. After a few hours, they were released on bail yesterday.

Now many fear that they could take revenge and start a new spiral of violence and massacres, a pattern observed in the past, favoured by a climate of impunity.

For Naveed Walter, president of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP), the fact that incident took place on International Human Rights Day shows that there is “no room for human rights for Christians”.

What is more, “no lesson” has come from the Priyantha Kumara incident and “sexual violence against women” remains widespread and goes unpunished.

Activist Robin Daniel played a key role in saving the life of the family by promptly intervening on the day of the attack.

For him, “powerful Muslims attack [Christians] only for their faith and do not consider them worthy of equal rights,” a situation best exemplified by the behaviour of the police. Despite this, “We shall not remain silent and will fight for justice,” Daniel said.

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