By Kashif Nawab
The European Parliament must take notice of the mob violence against Christians that occurred on 16 August 2023 in Jaranwala, Faisalabad district of Pakistan, and the intimidation of Christians in Sargodha on the pretext of fabricated blasphemy accusations, and consider initiating a debate and moving a resolution to address religious persecution of Christians in Pakistan.
This was demanded by a delegation comprising Joseph Jansen, Shagufta Kausar, and Asif Mall during a meeting held at the European Parliament in Brussels. The Members of the European Parliament, including; Charlie Weimers, David Lega, Bert-Jan Ruissen, and Anja Haga joined the meeting and made a commitment to initiate substantial actions in the European parliament to address the religion-based violence in Pakistan.
Joseph Jansen, advocacy officer at Jubilee Campaign briefed the European parliament about the situation of religious freedom in Pakistan in the context of the Jaranwala incident. He said that the blasphemy law was misused another time in Jaranwala to target innocent Christians by making them accused of desecration of the Holy Quran which led to mob violence leaving 26 Churches and over 80 homes of Christians torched in the town, which was facilitated by religio-political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). He raised concerns over the investigations as police officials are not much bothered about the mob attack against Christians, instead, they are more concerned about dealing with the blasphemy, which was not committed by the two Christians accused, rather a false accusation was leveled against Christians to settle personal scores against them. He demanded a judicial inquiry into the Jaranwala attack, and the safety of Christians accused of blasphemy in Jaranwala and Sargodha, and a fair and transparent investigation and trial to prosecute and punish the people instigating and carrying out mob violence.
Asif Mall said that the lives and properties of Christians in Christian settlements across Pakistan are at risk since the Jaranwala violence and blasphemy accusations in Sargodha. There are reports where people associated with religio-political parties are writing about the Prophet Muhammad on the outer walls of churches, and recently a pastor was shot by a Muslim man in Faisalabad for getting the graffiti removed from the wall with the help of the police, and refusing to convert to Islam. He added that Police have arrested culprits including representatives of Tehreek-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) involved in violence against Christians in Jaranwala, however, Muslims are pressurizing Christians to withdraw cases against TLP representatives, and they are being threatened with dire consequences, in case, they didn’t comply with their demands.
The European Parliamentarians agreed to hold a debate on the destructive effect of blasphemy on Christians in Pakistan and initiate a resolution urging Pakistan to amend blasphemy laws, which are vague and discriminatory in nature, and are inconsistent with freedom of religion and freedom of expression.
Charlie Weimers said that the situation caused by reactions after acts of blasphemy affects all citizens of the globe, it is an important issue to be worked on, keeping in view the international human rights standards. It is obligatory for the European Parliament and European External Action Service to raise not only voices against the religious persecution of minorities in Pakistan, but to take meaningful actions that have a significant impact on the ground.
Anja Haga said that the state of religious freedom is abysmal in Pakistan. We as parliamentarians, are committed to joining in all possible actions to press the government of Pakistan to introduce positive reforms to put an end to detrimental consequences of malicious and fictitious blasphemy accusations.