Three cases of blasphemy accusations against Christians in one month: tensions in Sargodha

CLAAS was informed by a local Christian Saim Gill about the tense situation in Marriam colony Town Sargodha. Saim is residing there and told that on Sunday, July 16, 2023, a mob of numbers of Muslim people gathered in front of the Marriam colony to attack the houses of the Christians, after the accusation of blasphemy.

The allegation was not proved against the Christians as Muhammad Abdul Gaffar, a retired Pakistani Air Force officer, said that on returning home with Qari Muhammad Asif, imam of the local mosque, he discovered a small pamphlet with blasphemous content, and left on the perimeter wall of his house.

Saim added that the situation got worse for the Marriam Colony’s Christians and they were scared when two Churches of Marriam Colony Sargodha stopped from offering Sunday Mass. The security cameras of these two churches were also removed by the local police without any reason.

ith the intervention of the local management and public functionaries of concerned police station Marriam colony was saved for any mishap. The Christian leaders contacted with the Muslim clergy men to convince them that the Christian community never ever disrespects the Muslim religion. They also worked on interfaith harmony just to keep the atmosphere peaceful.

It is pertinent to mention here that two cases of blasphemy accusation had also been registered in District Sargodha earlier to the incident of Marriam Colony. Because of above said two blasphemy cases the local Muslim community became aggressive. Moreover the incident of Sweeden also increased the aggression against the Christian community. Further, the person who has written pamphlet with blasphemous content also wrote the address of the Marriam colony just to create religious conflict in the society.

After the incident of Marriam Colony a blasphemy case was registered against the unknown persons at Police Station Satellite Town Sargodha. Police arrested around more than forty Christians and they were confined without reason in the police lockup just to satisfy the Muslim community.

According to the local residence the Christian of Marriam colony were scared from the threat of the majority community and about 200 people left their houses to save themselves from any unwanted incident. There are almost 800-900 Christian houses in Marriam colony Sargodha. Police provided security to the Christians of the area.

Talking with the local Christians they shared that they have been living peacefully in the area from the last 20-22 years but after the incident they are feeling unsaved.

The CLAAS team has also contacted with a local Christian Ex-MPA (The member of Provincial Assembly Punjab) who shared that he is in contact with the peace committee, local clerics, and police as well to maintain the law and order situation.

In the last month i.e. June 30, 2023, a blasphemy case FIR No. 615/23, offence under section 295-A & 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code was registered against a Christian Haroon Shahzad son of Younas Masih at police station Cantt Sargodha. Muhammad Imran Ullah s/o Manawar Hussain is the complainant of the FIR. Haroon Shahzad was residing in village No. 49 of Sargodha. He posted Bible verses on Facebook from the Old Testament about sacrificial of animal. The Muslims took this post against their religion hence registered the case. Haroon is confined in the jail.

On July 08, 2023, another blasphemy case FIR No. 684/23 offence under section 295-A & 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code was registered at Police Station Saddar, Sargodha against Zaki s/o Waris Masih from village No. 98 of Sargodha. Muhammad Awais s/o Javed Iqbal is the complainant of the FIR. Zaki was alleged to hurt the religious sentiment of Muslims by posting Bible verses on Facebook against sacrifice in other religions.

CLAAS also inquired to the Ex-MPA about these two FIRs who told that Haroon’s pre-arrest bail was rejected by the lower court whereas Zaki’s case is under proceedings.

The third incident of blasphemous writing on the wall happened on Sunday 16, 2023. The case was registered against unknown persons. The Ex-MPA also confirmed that the situation in this area is tense after the third incident of blasphemy.

Talking about the current situation in the area he said that the police and locals are cooperating with each other in search for the actual culprits of this incident.

He also said that there is an apprehension that one person from the Muslim community is involved in all these matters and he registered all cases through different complainants.

CLAAS was in contact with different local persons of the area. We also talked to the local police station Sargodha to know about their management to handle the current situation. Police confirmed to the CLAAS that the situation is under control. The Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) is supervising his subordinate to control the worst situation. We asked a question to the police regarding the mob attack on Christian houses.The police answered that they are well equipped with their all professional tools just to handle the situation and further confirmed that there is no fear of any mob attack. In spite of police protection the local Christians left their houses due to the continuing tense situation. Only few of the local residents confirmed that they are safe because of the police protection.

On July 23, 2023 delegation from the National Council for Interfaith Peace and Harmony Commission (NCFIPHC) went to Sargodha from Lahore, marking a significant step toward unity and peace. The delegation, comprised of local Muslims and Christian religious leaders, held a successful meeting that helped reduces the tense atmosphere in Maraim Town, Sargodha.