"Government and police are the perpetrators of violence against Christians": So read a statement from the conference of Catholic bishops of Pakistan and their Justice and Peace Commission. This followed the attack on Christians living in the Josephy Colony in Lahore on March 9. A dispute between two men led to a charge of blasphemy against a Christian man. Responding to denunciations by Muslim religious leaders, Muslim mobs burned down 178 homes in the Christian district. The bishops called on the government of the Punjab region "to adopt long-term measures to control abuse of the blasphemy law."
Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf, Director of the Commission, and Peter Jacob, Executive Director, accused "the police and the administration the main responsibles of the situation, that allowed the development of a tragedy in the heart of the city." The provincial government is responsible, they declared, because it "ignored the situation of minorities and the growing religious intolerance fomented by extremist groups." In addition, "attention was not paid to the recommendations expressed by the judicial investigation conducted after the events in Gojra in 2009, when six Christians were burned alive and 140 houses of the faithful were set on fire." If the provincial and federal governments "had introduced legal safeguards and administrative reforms, the tragedy on Saturday could have been avoided," the text says. The statement calls for "a credible and impartial investigation", "punishment of the guilty" and "adequate compensation to about 200 families affected."
The Commission also demanded a revocation of "a false blasphemy case against the Christian Sawan Masih." The group also called for Masih's immediate relese from custody. The abuse of the blasphemy law is widespread in Punjab, especially by Muslim accusers, and covers about 80% of cases reported in the province. The statement calls on the Government of Punjab "to accept the challenge of a legal and administrative reform to prevent abuse in cases of blasphemy."