HRCP team finds tense calm in Gojra

Lahore, July 30: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has stated that although peace prevails in Gojra ahead of the anniversary of last year’s grisly attacks on Christians there, that peace is largely due to the presence of a strong police contingent. HRCP has emphasised the urgent need to find ways to secure inter-faith harmony on sincere and durable basis.

The observations were made in the report of an HRCP fact-finding mission to Gojra. The report, entitled, An Uncertain Peace, was released to the media on Friday. The HRCP team had visited Gojra last week and met the affected families, journalists, religious leaders and members of the local administration to determine the status and adequacy of compensation for the affected families; the status of prosecution of the accused; and the state of inter-communal relations in the area a year after the Gojra attacks on August 1 last year. The visiting team found that most of the torched houses and a destroyed church had been reconstructed by the provincial government and the standard of construction appeared to be satisfactory. However, the partially destroyed houses had not been rebuilt and only one-third of the compensation promised to families of the completely destroyed houses had been given and no timeframe had been given for payment of the balance. Furthermore, although police have submitted Challan (case file) for trial, but there is no indication of when proceeding would begin.

The team noted that the local Christian community felt that it was being pressurised to reach a compromise and withdraw the case against the accused. “The witnesses in the case are under greater pressure and may not appear in court if the trial is delayed for much longer or if their security is not guaranteed,” the report stated, adding that the Christians of the area apprehended that conviction of the accused might lead to a backlash against the local Christian population. The HRCP team learned about efforts by the Muslim and Christian communities and the local administration to promote peace and harmony as well as attempts by extremist elements to inflame emotions.

“Peace in Gojra is largely due to the presence of a strong police contingent and the obvious realization by the Muslim community that disruption of order in the present situation will have a bad effect on the fate of those facing trial. Neither of these two factors is permanent. Ways will have to be found to secure the parties’ sincere conversion to inter-faith harmony,” the report concluded.

I. A. Rehman

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