August 22, 2023
By Maryam Missal
The Joint Action Committee (JAC) Lahore, has expressed deep concern and anger over the recent violent incidents that unfolded in tehsil Jaranwala of Faisalabad district, sending shockwaves throughout the nation.
Mobs fueled by unproven blasphemy allegations targeted Christian churches and houses, igniting a disturbing pattern of religious intolerance and persecution against minority communities across Punjab.
JAC held a meeting on Wednesday at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) office in Lahore. The meeting was initiated by the presentation of fact fact-finding report on the incident of Jaranwala.
The committee collectively condemned the heinous acts and demanded swift action from the government. The committee asserted that immediate measures must be taken to identify and apprehend the culprits behind these attacks, ensuring they are held accountable under the law.
Important questions were raised in the fact-finding report by JAC regarding the events of 16th August 2023 in Jaranwala. As per the accounts of the committee’s field representatives, the organized nature of the mob was evident; however, there was an absence of a recognizable leader, contributing to the enigmatic aspect of the incident’s timeline.
Highlighting another concerning issue, the committee underscored the misuse of loudspeakers by certain clerics to spread hatred among different sects. The JAC argued that such acts not only abet violence but also act as a catalyst for it.
While speaking at the conference, Mohammed Tahseen, convener of the Joint Action Committee, said that the incident of Jaranwala or the violence against Ahmadis is not the problem but these are the symptoms of a bigger problem that has no end in sight so far.
In a statement to Voicepk.net, Tahseen remarked, “Civil society, politicians, and other stakeholders should unite and seek a lasting solution… the issue will persist until we stand up for civil liberties, fundamental rights, and democracy.”
Journalist and columnist, Wajahat Masood drew the attention of the committee towards the blasphemy laws and the proposed amendments to the laws.
“The blasphemy bill amendment is a draconian law and an absolute crime”,
“Our day will come, and we will be fighting against these elements. For that, we have to be prepared and keep our emotions in check until then.”
Nighat Saeed, a founding member of the Women’s Action Forum, presented a press release from 1995 that eerily predicted the future of blasphemy laws in Pakistan.
‘What makes these laws sinister is their potential for misuse by those in power,’ Nighat Saeed emphasized.
The recent statement reads: ‘WAF strongly condemns the heinous attack by a mob on churches and members of the Christian community in Jaranwala, allegedly over blasphemy accusations.’
Continuing from Saeed’s remarks, Hina Jillani, Chairperson of HRCP and another founding member of WAF, remarked that visiting Jaranwala felt like déjà vu, as history was repeating itself.
Jillani shared that the Jaranwala incident bore a resemblance to the Shanti Nagar incident in Quetta and the Joseph Colony incident in Lahore.
She further emphasized that these inciters weren’t solely affiliated with a single political party; rather, such provocateurs existed in smaller groups across various areas.
“Hate crimes serve as their means to gain attention and influence,”
“We are not only condemning what has happened in Jaranwala but also what has happened in other places as well over the years.”, said Jillani talking to Voicepk.net.
The committee firmly demanded that those inciting violence, promoting religious discord, and committing crimes against minorities be subjected to criminal proceedings without delay.
Imtiaz Alam, an Analyst and Columnist, spoke to the committee participants, pointing out that Pakistan’s establishment was marked by the division of a larger group, leading to an enduring challenge where the minority contends against the majority.
Alam commented on the rise in intolerance towards religious minorities, remarking, “Decades of fostering fascism in society precede instances of genocide.”
Alam emphasized a significant request, which involved making political parties accountable for upholding democracy and championing the rights of minorities residing in Pakistan. He stated that every party participating in elections should be required to endorse the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.