Police Evict Christian Residents in Faisalabad Raid, Sparking Outrage and Protests

In Faisalabad, a police operation has dramatically escalated tensions in Akbarabad near Allied Hospital, resulting in the forceful eviction of Christian residents from at least 25 homes on April 18, 2024. The officers not only evicted the inhabitants but also discarded their possessions onto the streets. Initial rumours of desecrating the Holy Bible during the raid were clarified by Rev. Father Khalid Rasheed Assi as a misunderstanding.

The root of this conflict lies in a longstanding dispute over land ownership, which has entangled the local Christian residents and the landowner in a protracted legal battle. According to Rev. Assi, despite the community having paid approximately Rs 12.8 million (£37,135) in instalments, a significant balance remains. He noted that the police attempted to seal several houses but ceased their efforts following resistance from the residents, who were permitted to remove their valuables before their homes were locked.

The raid sparked immediate protests from the Christian community, leading to road blockages and a tense standoff requiring police negotiation. The residents are seeking a resolution over the financial dealings with the landowner, amidst accusations against politician Raja Riaz, whom they allege is exerting influence to reclaim the now-valuable land. According to community members, their families have inhabited the area for six decades, transforming previously undesirable land into valuable property.

Social activist Manzoor Anthony highlighted the community's plight, pointing out that many families were forced to spend the night outdoors amid inclement weather following the raid. He criticized the timing and manner of the police action, suggesting that it was an injustice to those who had developed the land long before its value increased.

The situation has also drawn attention from legal advocates within the Christian community, including Akmal Bhatti, who accused Raja Riaz and Raja Afzal Abbas of employing gangsters to intimidate the residents and alleged desecration of the Holy Bible.

Mr. Shahzad Imran Sahotra, Central President of the Christian Awakening Movement Pakistan, has called for government intervention. He demands justice for the affected families, insisting on their right to return to the homes they have occupied for decades and questioning the ethical implications of the landowner's delayed claims.

This incident not only underscores the ongoing challenges faced by minority communities in Pakistan but also the complex interplay of legal, social, and economic factors that can escalate into significant human rights issues.