Sawan Masih 26, a resident of Joseph Colony near Badami Bagh, in Lahore went to a barber shop for a haircut on March 8. However, when shop owner Imran Shahid refused to cut his hair, hot words were exchanged between the two in the Pakistani city. As the conversation grew more heated, barber Shahid made disparaging remarks about Masih's religion thus provoking him.
Shahid later went to report Masih to the local police, accusing him of drunkeness and blasphemy for allegedly denigrating the name of Islam's founder, Muhammad. Police arrested Masih on the evening of March 8, charging him with blasphemy according to Pakistan's Islamic law prohibiting blasphemy according to the tenets of Islamic law known as sharia.
On March 9, a large mob attacked a Christian neighborhood in Lahore known as Joseph Colony. During the rampage, over 100 homes were burned as hundreds of residents were forced to flee. According to local reports, at least 35 people are known to have been injured. A death toll has yet to be ascertained. One resident, Salamat Masih, recalled " We were busy in our daily work, we heard a shout 'Burn them alive!', and a huge mob rushed in and burnt our properties. They threw acid and stones at the houses, but the authorities kept silent and didn't intervene until everything was burnt."
The local Muslim cleric has demanded that the faithful should kill Sawan on sight.
The Life for All and Masihi Foundation - a respected human rights organization in Pakisan - strongly condemned the incident and has sent a team to the district to aid the victims and demand government intervention. The Punjab region has been a hub of religious intolerance, while the Punjab government has failed to protect religious minorities. Religious intolerance has increased to the extent that Muslims are willing and able to kill and burn people and property. According to Life for All, religious minorities are not safe in Pakistan, they are targeted for their faith. In a statement, the organization declared "We need to play our positive role to promote religious harmony, otherwise we will repeatedly see incident like Shanti Nagar, Gojra and Lahore."