Christian School Attacked In Pakistan, Arrests: Police

by
Jackson
Police on Saturday arrested several stone-wielding demonstrators who smashed up a Christian school and attempted to attack a church following protests against the alleged desecration of a Koran.

Christian School Attacked In Pakistan, Arrests: Police

Police on Saturday arrested several stone-wielding demonstrators who smashed up a Christian school and attempted to attack a church following protests against the alleged desecration of a Koran.

A crowd of around 500 gathered in the suburbs of Gujranwala district near Lahore, the main town of central Punjab province, after two burnt pages of the Islamic holy book were recovered from a Christian graveyard, police said.

Local clerics blamed the Christian community for the incident and used speeches at mosques on Saturday morning to inform others and call a protest against the alleged blasphemy.

In the afternoon, more than 500 rock and stone carrying demonstrators marched towards a church and attempted to attack it after smashing a Christian missionary school, police said.

"They entered the school and broke the furniture there. They tried to march towards a Church but we have dispersed them," Ghulam Mubashir Mekan, senior police officer in Gujranwala told AFP by telephone.

"We have arrested several protesters, the situation is still tense," he said.

Nadeem Anthony, a social activist who visited the area, confirmed the incident. "Several Christian families have left the area," he told AFP.

Residents said around 2,500 Christians are living there.

A Christian woman, Aasia Bibi, was sentenced to hang in Pakistan's central province of Punjab last November after being found guilty of insulting the Prophet Mohammed following a row with Muslim women in her village.

Liberal politicians and human rights activists in Pakistan say the blasphemy law, which carries the death penalty, is frequently used to settle personal grievances and encourages Islamist extremism.

Gunmen shot dead Pakistan minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, in broad daylight in Islamabad on March 2.

Bhatti had vowed to defy death threats over his opposition to Islamic blasphemy laws.

Another vocal opponent of the blasphemy law, Punjab governor Salman Taseer, was in January shot dead by one of his police bodyguards, who is said to be feted by his jailers and celebrated as a hero on the streets of Islamabad.

The government backtracked on amending the law, which provides for the death penalty, on December 30 after a number of popular protests despite criticism from rights groups who say the law is often abused to settle personal scores.

AFP