Pakistan arrests members of anti-Christian mob, but convictions rare [Excerpts]
Christians and civil society activists across Pakistan took to the roads on [March 10, 2012] demanding government protection for the rising persecution of religious minority communities which make up less than five percent of the country.
The protests come a day after hundreds of Muslims rampaged inside a Lahore neighborhood of at least 50 Christian homes. The rioters apparently were outraged over accusations that a local Christian from the area had committed blasphemy. The accused blasphemer had already been arrested the night before, and the Christians in the area fled the same night in expectation of violence.
The police have arrested dozens in connection to the rioting. But campaigners for religious minorities here note that arrests after past incidents have almost never led to punishments, and the blasphemy law that enables communal unrest remain on the books.
"This current government passed many constitutional amendments during the last five year but did not touch the blasphemy law, even though everyone in the parliament was on board for the revisions in the constitution," says Nadeem Anthony, a lawyer in Lahore who defends those facing a possible death sentence under the law.
Many locals corroborate this saying that despite knowing of tensions in the area since Friday, the police did not swing into action until late Saturday. On Sunday, under heavy police deployment, some of the affected families visited the locality to measure their losses who are currently living with their relatives elsewhere in the city
Anthony says the government has done almost nothing in response to past attacks on Christians. To date, no one has been convicted in the 2009 attacks on Christians in Gojra that left at least nine dead and dozens of houses destroyed. Similarly, the Muslim cleric who tried to falsely frame a Christian girl of blasphemy last year was ultimately released after being arrested.
Local reports suggest more than 100 people have been arrested so far. Besides the arrests, the government has promised to rebuild the burnt down houses and has also announced monetary compensation for the victims.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan has also taken a suo-moto notice of the incident and will hold hearings on the case tomorrow.
But human rights activists criticize these steps as a cosmetic measure and say the government needs to seriously reconsider its policy towards discrimination of minorities instead of having reactionary responses.