Post-Election Violence in Sahiwal: Christians Face Assault for Political Choices

 Sahiwal, February 12, 2024 – In a disturbing post-election development, the Christian community in Chak 6-11-L, neighbouring Sahiwal Harappa, became the target of violent attacks by local Muslims. The clashes erupted over the community's support for the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz group (PML-N) in the general elections held on February 8, 2024.

Arshad Masih, 55, recounted to Pak Christian News (PCN) the events leading up to the assault. His son, Ansar Gill, 30, was attacked by supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for voting for PML-N. This initial confrontation turned violent when the victorious PML-N candidates, Rana Riaz and Mian Ashraf, were celebrated by the Christian community.

The situation escalated dramatically on February 12, around 2 am, when several assailants, both local and unidentified, attacked Christian homes in retaliation for the election results. The attackers used petrol bombs and firearms, targeting the homes of prominent community members, including Pastor Hashmat Masih and Tahir Gill.

The assailants’ first attack was on Pastor Hashmat Masih’s residence, where he narrowly escaped harm along with his family. Tahir Gill’s home was next, where a petrol bomb destroyed his rickshaw. The third target was Shoukat Gill’s home, which sustained gunfire damage.

Arshad Masih revealed that underlying tensions have existed for years, particularly since the construction of a new church in the area. The attackers, who opposed the church, have reportedly blocked pathways and expressed animosity towards the Christian community.

Asher Sarfraz, CEO of Christ True Spirit (CTS), a Christian NGO providing legal aid, reported that the local Christian community is living in fear, with women and girls particularly traumatized by the attacks. CTS team members and religious leaders, under police protection, visited the affected families to offer support.

Bishop Abraham Azeem Daniel emphasized the democratic rights of citizens to vote according to their choice, condemning any attempts to suppress these rights based on religion, colour, or race.

Following the attacks, CTS, led by Executive Director Catherine Sapna and CEO Asher Sarfaraz, lodged a police complaint. An FIR was registered against the attackers at Harappa Police Station, under the direction of DPO Sahiwal Faisal Shehzad. The CTS legal team, comprising Nadeem Hassan Advocate, Haroon Ranjha Advocate, Mohsin Gul Advocate, and Miss Sana Advocate, is committed to providing comprehensive legal and support services to the affected families.

In a concerning twist, the powerful local attackers have also filed an FIR against the Christian community, further complicating the situation. Arshad Masih highlighted the demographic disparity in the village, with around 100 Christian houses amidst 1400 Muslim residences, where most Christians work as labourers.

This incident in Sahiwal has not only shaken the Christian community but also raised significant concerns about religious freedom and the protection of minorities in Pakistan.