Several Christian-led activists and rights organisations staged a protest demanding the government better protect the lives and properties of religious minorities in Pakistan. The group called for the arrest and prosecution of the assailants who gunned down Pastor William Siraj and wounded Pastor Patrick Naeem in Peshawar last week.
Protesting in front of the Karachi Press Club on Monday, Chairman of the Muttahida Masihi Council Noel Ijaz said that the feeling of insecurity within the Christian community had increased following the violent killing.
“We would feel better protected if the police succeed in arresting the attackers and if perpetrators are convicted for their crimes. It is a sad reality that attackers involved in the persecution of minorities usually enjoy impunity,” he observed.
One protestor Alyas Samuel said that whenever the minorities are attacked, perceived police and government inaction leaves an impression that minorities are second-class citizens, and are not treated equally.
Another, Asif Bastian lamented the government’s response, which he said some believe emboldens terrorists and extremists to oppress and attack minorities, particularly Christians, with impunity.
“Religious minorities are beaten down time and again, and we find no protection. If we fight back, the police put us in jail, but the elements behind mob attacks against minority settlements get away with their crimes,” he commented.
Chairman of Voice for Justice Joseph Jansen cited the government response to the killing of two Muslims in 2015 in retaliation of the Youhanabad church attacks. Police in this instance took direct action and arrested 200 Christians, eventually charging 47 members of the Christian community. A least 41 Christians spent five years in prison until they were finally acquitted, Jansen claimed, noting the government’s quick action in the matter.
Last week, a priest in Peshawar was murdered in broad daylight on his way home from Mass. In a separate incident a few days later, a Hindu trader was shot dead by assailants in Sindh, despite his previous pleas for help from the police .