Gujranwala violence: CFD urges investigation, commends police, admin role
MAY 4: The situation in Gujranwala again underlines the urgent need to check how allegations of blasphemy are levelled and used to spark unrest and violence for political purposes to create strife in society, said Citizens for Democracy (CFD), a nation-wide umbrella group of several hundred individuals and organisations working against the use and abuse of religion in politics.
Tensions have been rising in Gujranwala over the past couple of weeks over accusations that Christians had desecrated the Holy Quran. On April 30, the police prevented a mob from burning down a church. At least 10 people, including police officials, were reportedly wounded when the mob also tried to attack the residences of the Christian religious community and shattered the windows of a Christian school.
Tensions were lowered through a multi-pronged strategy that included the following commendable steps:
· Forming a Peace Inquiry Committee involving Christian and Muslim religious leadership to meet regularly to identify the elements that disturb peace or create unrest;
· Preventing the issue from being sensationalised in the media
· Not making public the content of complaint
· Imposing Section 144 (temporary ban on public gatherings, display of arms and use of amplifiers) on May 1-2, 2011;
· A vast number of local Muslims expressing their solidarity with the Christian community, asserting that they have coexisted for generations and they know local Christians respect the Quran and belief of the Muslims.
The police arrested 25 people for their involvement in the disturbances and also took three Christians including a priest who had been accused of writing a blasphemous note, into protective custody to prevent them from being harmed by the mob.
A handwriting expert hired by the police has determined that the accused Christians did not write the offensive note, whose real author police are trying to find.
It is noteworthy that unlike previous instances, police did not register blasphemy cases against the Christians, despite intense pressure from religious and political parties.
However, the situation remains volatile in Gujranwala, where at least 3,000 Christian families are reported to have fled Azizabad Colony and surrounding areas, fearing another Gojra-like incident when eight Christians were killed after a false blasphemy accusation. Local Muslims are also afraid, and are placing their names and religious affiliation on their doors to avoid having their houses attacked.
Local residents say that most of the rioters are not from the neighbourhood, which indicates the involvement of outside forces deliberately creating strife and division in society.
CFD commends the positive role being played by the administration, police and local communities in standing up to extremist elements that are igniting religious emotions to create violence. The authorities have shown steadfastness under pressure so far, and we hope they will continue to show political will and not be intimidated.
We urge the authorities to ensure that the displaced persons are able to return to their homes in safety at the earliest, and are duly compensated for losses incurred during the violence.
Finally, we urge the authorities to ensure that the ringleaders of the violence are charged with an offence so that such incidents are not repeated.
CFD supporting organisations include Professional Organisations Mazdoor Federations & Hari Joint Committee – POJAC, an umbrella organisation including: 1. Sindh High Court Bar Association; 2. Pakistan Medical Association (PMA); 3. All Pakistan Newspaper Employees Confederation (APNEC); 4. Mutahida Labour Federation; 5. Karachi Union of Journalists; 6. Pakistan Workers Federation; 7. All Pakistan Trade Union Federation (APTUF); 8. All Pakistan Clerk Association; 9. Democratic Labour Union State Bank of Pakistan; 10. UBL Workmen Union (CBA); 11. National Bank Trade Union Federation; 12. Karachi Bar Association; 13. Pakistan Nursing Federation; 14. National Trade Union Federation; 15. Sindh Hari Committee; 16. Govt. Sec. Teachers Association; 17. Pakistan Hotel And Restaurant Workers Federation; 18. Mehran Mazdoor Federation; 19. All Sindh Primary Teachers Association; 20. Sindh Professor Lecturer Association; 21. Malir Bar Association, Karachi; 22. Pakistan Trade Union Federation (PTUF); 23. Railway Workers Union Open Line (cba) Workshop; 24. Mehran Railway Employees Welfare Association; 25. All Pakistan Trade Unions Organisations; CFD members and those endorsing the above statement also include: 26. Awami Party; 27. Labour Party Pakistan (LPP); 28. Progressive Youth Front (PYF); 29. Communist Party Pakistan (CPP); 30. Peace and Solidarity Council; 31. Pakistan Institute of Labour, Education & Research (Piler); 32. Action Committee for Human Rights; 33. Dalit Front; 34. National NCommission for Justice and Peace (CJP); 35. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP); 36. Caritas; 37. Aurat Foundation; 38. Women’s Action Forum (WAF); 39. People’s Resistance; 40. Sindh Awami Sangat; 41. National Organisation of Working Committees; 42. Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF); 43. Child and Labour Rights Welfare Organisation; 44. Progressive Writers Association (PWA); 45. Port Workers Federation; 46. Shirkat Gah; 47. Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC); 48. Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA); 49. Sanjan Nagar Public Education Trust (SNPET); 50. Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network (PDSN); 51. Sindh Democratic Forum (SDF); 52. SAP-Pakistan; 53. AwazCDS-Pakistan; 54. GCAP-Pakistan; 55. Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF); 56. Labour Education Foundation (LEF); 57. Progressive Youth Forum; 58. National Students’ Federation (NSF); 59. The Researchers; 60. Tehrik-e-Niswan; 61. Democratic Commission for Human Development (DCHD); 62. Crises Support Group of Residents for Defence and Clifton, Karachi; 63. Baaghi: A blog for secular Pakistan; 64. Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP); 65. Ansar Burney Trust International; 66. Viewpoint International; 67. Pakistan Youth Alliance; 68. Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI); 69. Youth Together for Human Rights Education (YTHRE); 70. The Institute for Social Movements (ISM); 71 South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP-Pk); 72. Institute for Development Initiatives; 73. Shehri-CBE; 74. Institute for Peace and Secular studies; 75. Youth Parliament of Pakistan; 76. Pattan; 77. Awami Jamhoori Forum; 78. Community Development Initiative (CDI); 79. Khudi, Lahore & Islamabad; 80. Insani Haqooq Itehad (IHI); 81. Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences and National Council of Academics; 82. Peaceniche, Karachi