"Report describes the attack in Sargodha, Pakistan, as 'calculated' and 'manipulated.'"

Report describes the attack in Sargodha, Pakistan, as ‘calculated’ and ‘manipulated.’

LAHOREPakistan The May 25 Muslim mob attack that killed a Christian in Sargodha, Pakistan, was a “calculated assault, manipulated through religious fervor to gain maximum leverage,” according to a report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

The attack in Sargodha’s Mujahid Colony, Punjab Province, led to the death of Nazeer Masih Gill on June 3 from injuries sustained in the assault.

Ayub Gondal has accused Nazeer Gill of desecrating the Quran. Nazeer Gill’s grandchildren and Ayub Gondal’s children allegedly had an altercation, according to the HRCP.

It concluded that the attack on the Gill family, which destroyed their shoe factory, likely stemmed from a personal dispute that Gondal had with Nazeer Gill’s family.

The HRCP noted that mosque announcements calling Muslims to gather due to the blasphemy accusation played a key role.

“Two FIRs [First Information Reports] were filed concerning the incident. The first, lodged against Nazeer Masih [Gill] on the day of the attack, included charges of blasphemy and sectarian hatred,” the report stated. “The second, filed after Nazeer’s death, charged the mob with attempted murder. However, the HRCP noted that the mosque announcement, which played a critical role in rallying the mob, was not mentioned in the FIR.”

The report emphasized the need for a thorough investigation and prosecution of all involved, including addressing the role of political parties like Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in instigating such violence.

The mob attacked the home of Nazeer Gill and his son, Sultan Masih Gill, accused of deliberately burning pages of the Quran, the report noted, adding that the mosque announcements brought to light deep-seated religious and personal tensions.

The report states that the mosque announcement charged up a mob of about 2,000 people demanding the death of Nazeer Gill and his son. The message also circulated on WhatsApp.

“The mob, armed with rocks, sticks, and petrol bombs, created a scene of chaos,” the report states. “The police initially tried to calm the crowd but, realizing the severity of the situation, decided to evacuate the family.”

Police used tear gas as cover to rescue nine family members, including women and children, from the mob, it stated.

“However, the crowd caught Nazeer Masih and severely beat him. He succumbed to injuries on June 3,” it states.

On May 28, Maheen Pracha, Asad Jamal, and Yaqoob Khan Bangash’s HRCP fact-finding mission met with local religious, community, and political leaders, senior police officers, members of the victim’s family, and residents of the Mujahid Colony.

The mission learned that 150 to 200 Christian families lived in the Mujahid Colony among roughly 2,000 Muslim families and that their relations had generally been cordial.

The mob attack badly injured Nazeer Gill and burned down his family’s shoe workshop, where nine Christian workers were employed, according to the report.

The HRCP mission found that police had gathered necessary evidence from the scene but had also started restoring the area under directives from the Punjab chief minister, perceived as downplaying the incident. Christian community members voiced concerns and expressed doubt about their safety in returning to the Mujahid Colony.

“The Punjab government has attempted to downplay the incident by discouraging press coverage and failing to condemn the incident unequivocally,” the report states.

A prominent poster of the Muslim extremist political party TLP outside Gondal’s shop indicated possible political motivations behind the attack, given the TLP’s history of using blasphemy allegations for political leverage, according to the report.

The mission also stressed the importance of implementing the 2014 Supreme Court judgment on the rights of religious minorities and called for amendments to the blasphemy laws to prevent misuse.

The HRCP recommended measures to restore Christian citizens’ confidence and concerted efforts to counter hate speech, especially on social media platforms and through mosque loudspeakers.

Political parties that use blasphemy allegations for political gain should face severe consequences.

Providing adequate equipment and authority to handle such incidents requires improvements in police response times.

Sensitizing police officers to the genuine risk associated with complaints of alleged blasphemy is crucial for protecting religious minorities.

The 2014 Supreme Court decision must be upheld regarding the rights of religious minorities.

It concludes that “the government must ensure the physical and economic well-being of the affected families and rehabilitate them as swiftly as possible.”

Pakistan ranked seventh on the Open-Doors 2024 World Watch List of the most challenging places to be a Christian, as it did the previous year.

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