PRESS RELEASE – Aug 5, 2009
The Institute for Peace and Secular Studies organized a meeting of a wide section of society on August 4, 2009 at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Committee Room. Political activists, Lawyers, Educators, representatives of the Christian community, writers, students, youth and labour observed a 1 minute silence for those killed in the Gojra massacre. An HRCP representative articulating that Gojra had been preceded by a similar incident in Kasur a month ago, gave a detailed account of their initial findings explaining how mosques were used to incite people and that even after hours of pleading by the Christian community, the State officials including the DCO and the RPO did not provide them security. It was mentioned that the act was planned, and along with fuel, chemicals were also used to burn down houses. In addition acid was used to target Christian citizens. Still humanity was also in evidence as some Muslim community members saved their Christian brethren against the murderous assault of the extremist mob.
After a lively discussion on the causes of such a disaster, the house’s consensus was that the rise of religious extremism in society had led to this situation. The lynching mob mentality has been enhanced by laws such as the Blasphemy Law, which is a hanging sword over minorities to be misused at a time of convenience by extremist militant elements. There has been a rise of madrassas in the Gojra area and more importantly Awan Colony which is adjacent to the Christian community has been an important hub of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan. In general, it is the State ideology which has allowed the political use of Islam by conservative, extremist and militant elements, and rather than clamping down, State agencies have facilitated these very elements. The house also took notice of local workers of PML-N identified as being associated with the lynching mob and had a message for the Chief Minister & other politicians that the loss of life could not be compensated in monetary terms – an appeasement approach that has become common to provincial and federal ministers.
The house agreed to combine their efforts towards the following initiatives:
- Organize a collective protest by various sections of society against the Gojra massacre.
- Ask all minority communities to come out in full force and defend their rights as citizens.
- Institute an ‘Investigative & Trial Committee’ to follow up on the Gojra case and make sure that the culprits are brought to justice
- Form a broad alliance of civil society groups to start a campaign to repeal the Blasphemy Law
- Pressure the government to bring all madrassas & mosques under strict State regulation
- Ask political parties to close their minority wings so as to include them in mainstream party decision-making.
- Send a formal delegation to PML-N demanding the expulsion of workers involved in all cases against minorities.
The house agreed that to make sure that such cases don’t happen again, the culprits including State functionaries responsible for citizen security had to be brought to justice in a speedy trial. A delegation will visit Gojra over the weekend to show solidarity with the affected community.