The two suicide attacks on Lahore's churches on 15 March, and the shocking lynching and burning of two innocent Muslim men by a charged crowd after the attack, not only manifests the vulnerability and anger of the country's minorities, but also the utter failure of the government and state to give protection to its citizens, create harmony and fraternity among the people belonging to different religions, sects, cultures and social classes.
These two separate incidents also unmask the true nature of our society which has become excessively intolerant, insecure, insensitive, frustrated, fragmented, helpless, and hopeless progressively.
In these two church attacks, around 15 people lost their lives and more than 70 were injured. According to reports, two Taliban suicide bombers attacked the churches. "The bombings occurred during prayers at two churches located around half-a-kilometre apart in the city's Youhanabad neighbourhood that is home to more than 100,000 Christians," officials said.
Police spokeswoman Nabila Ghazanfar said two policemen guarding the churches were among those killed in the attacks, while two people were beaten to death by protesters who took to the streets after the blasts. "Policemen on duty at both the entrances tried to stop them, but the bombers blew themselves up," she told AFP.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan's Jamaat-ul-Ahrar faction claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Christian protestors have launched protests in other big cities, including Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta and Lahore. They indulged in violent activities in Lahore. They killed two innocent Muslim men, after lynching and burning them alive, attacked Metro Bus stations, blocked important and busy roads. They also hampered VIP movements and forced PM Nawaz Sharif to cancel an inauguration visit. After two days of rioting, the protestors were baton-charged and dispersed.
The lynching and burning two men alive is a deplorable and tragic act. Speaking in the National Assembly, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan declared the lynching of two men at the hands of an enraged mob in the aftermath of the church attacks as reprehensible.
"A similar incident occurred right in the heart of Paris where a synagogue was attacked. But the minority Jews did not react violently in the French capital", Nisar said. "Shias were attacked in Shikarpur and Quetta, but no reaction was witnessed like the one in Lahore — what message did the burning of two men send to the world?" He added, that the burning of the two men and damage to government installations is the "worst form of terrorism".
"The incident is a cause of humiliation for our country, police, courts and government. We have recorded the faces of many culprits courtesy of the media, we shall take action against each and every one of them" Nisar promised.
He highlighted that the dead include "seven Muslims as well", although he soon added, "I am giving this statement only to clarify the records since the death of one person, be it Muslim or Christian, is tantamount to the death of all humanity."
Nisar Ali Khan is right in his words but he is not sincere in his actions, as the PML-N government and state have done nothing to alleviate the grievances of the minorities, especially the Christians. Every person knows that the minorities are not free to go to their worship places in Pakistan. They are also not considered as equal citizens of Pakistan. They are discriminated against in every field of life. In the armed forces and civil service, the members of minorities do not get promotion beyond a certain level. A non-Muslim cannot become the president or the prime minister of Pakistan.
Around two per cent of Pakistan's population comprises of Christians but, it is very tragic, that the Christians are one of the most neglected, backward, poor and marginalised people. Many times, they, their churches and colonies have been attacked by extremists. After the Lahore, Joseph Colony, this is the second major attack against the Christians in Lahore. On the night of March 8, and 9, 2013, a mob burned down around 178 houses in Joseph Colony in Badami Bagh on allegedly blasphemous remarks made by a Christian youth in a drunken fracas with a Muslim friend.
In 2009, 60 houses and a church were torched in Gojra. In this attack, eight Christians, including four women, were burned alive, while dozens were wounded. In 2011, a Christian minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, was killed. In September 2013, around 78 people were killed and over 100 injured in a suicide bombing at a Peshawar church. In 2014, a Christian couple was lynched and burnt in a brick kiln in Kot Radha Kishen, Kasur.
The 1997 carnage of the twin villages of Shanti Nagar-Tibba Colony near Khanewal and the 2005 attacks in Sangla Hill are still fresh in our sad memories. The Shanti Nagar-Tibba Colony villages were burnt down by a 20,000-strong mob allegedly with police assistance.
No perpetrator has yet been punished in these tragic cases. It is alleged that even the police and many influential political leaders are involved in these tragic cases as they have given help to the perpetrators.
Ayaz Amir writes about this pathetic situation: "When their homes were ransacked in Gojra, where was the provincial sarkar? When Joseph Colony in Lahore was ransacked on patently trumped-up pretences — the usual blasphemy tool employed to whip up the passions of the mob — where was the government? When the Christian man and wife, labourers at a brick kiln, were thrown into a burning oven, where was the police? So who is to blame the Christian community if after the two church suicide attacks in Lahore — 15 dead, scores injured — they take to the roads, damage public property and put two "suspects" — of whom we know nothing and whose guilt cannot be established on the basis of mob hearsay — on fire? Horrifying, of course, but not too hard to understand…when governments act dumb and shirk responsibility, mob rule takes over. When the general state of law and order is not what it should be, but authority figures whizz past in long motorcades, guards to their left and right, public patience is tested. And when the slightest thing occurs, and this was no slight thing, anger comes spilling over. Every time a Shia imambargah is attacked, dark images of revenge flit through the minds of Shia youths. This is the soil we tilled, and this the harvest we are lifting. The great theorists of strategic depth, the bright-eyed promoters of "jihad" as an instrument of state policy, have much to answer for. If there was any justice in Pakistan they would be stood up in a public square and made to answer for their theories…whose exposition has brought this country to this pass.
"The heart of the problem lies in the fact that our politicians and religious leaders have not learnt anything from history. They have lost East Pakistan and are now repeating the same mistakes. They have done too little to address the real issues with prudence. The discrimination, insecurity, ignorance, corruption, poverty, injustice and a sense of exploitation among the people, especially minorities, have increased manifold in our society which must be removed very urgently".
Kamila Hyat very aptly writes: "The problems we see are one of a society very loosely knit together. In some cases the stitches have fallen away altogether. This, perhaps, is why we react to events in so limited a fashion. The mobs that took to the streets after Sunday's bombings were made up only of Christians. Apparently others did not feel their pain and did not choose to share in it. This has been seen before. We act then not as a single nation, or as humans linked by commonalities, but as separate groups living accidentally within one territorial space. Despite the green shirts we don for cricket games, there is no unity beyond the cosmetic. We have allowed divides to be created and today we simply watch as one group is mowed down. Perhaps those responsible for these massacres believe they are doing right. But why do so many of the rest of us allow this to happen, accepting it as virtually the norm? Do they not realise that those driven away, hunted down and killed are human too and have a place in the nation? It seems this sense of wholeness, of looking beyond difference in belief, or race, or opinion has entirely disappeared or is on the verge of vanishing, and this, of course, is our collective loss".
We can still create a tolerant, progressive and peaceful society by following the teachings of the Quran, the instructions of the Quaid and learning lessons from our mistakes.