Muslim-Christian land dispute: Church attacked in Daska
* Two Christian women injured
* Police calls incident a minor scuffle between women
By Ali Waqar
LAHORE: People attacked a church in Kanwanlit village, Daska tehsil (Sialkot district), over a land dispute at about 10:00am on Friday morning and manhandled a couple Christian women. However, local police claimed that only a minor scuffle took place between the women of the Christian and Muslim communities and that the church was not damaged.
Members of the Christian community claimed that the local station house officer (SHO) and assistant superintendent of police (ASP) had visited the place and seen the damage. The incident took place in Daska Saddar Police precinct.
The church’s parish priest told Daily Times that about 20 people including women attacked the church and injured two people including an old woman who was pistol-whipped. He also said several windows had been broken. He said the attackers moved in on the church when most members of the Christian community had gone to work or to court. He said the attackers injured 70-year-old Veero (w/o Mehnga) and 50-year-old Salima. Both of Veero’s legs were broken and her back was also injured, he added. The attackers broke several church windows, damaged the main alter and several copies of the Bible, he said, adding that the Christian community had also been warned not to seek legal action.
People of the area told Daily Times that the church was built about 20 years ago, but the land dispute between the church and the family of Muhammad Iqbal and others arose a year ago.
Sialkot DPO Dr Tariq Khokhar told Daily Times that a minor scuffle had been reported between women of both communities. He also said police did not register any cognizable offence. He said the Christian community had only lodged a complaint. He said police had increased patrols the area to stop further incidents.
Local police officials confirmed the scuffle, but expressed ignorance about the details. They said several members of the Christian community were at the police station with regard to an inquiry being conducted into an FIR that was registered on the same dispute earlier, but they (police) had gotten to know about this incident just now.
The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), All Pakistan Minority Alliance (APMA) and other non-government organisations condemned the attack on the church and on Sialkot’s Christian community and asked the government to stop religious intolerance in the Punjab.
NCJP, a human rights body of the Catholic Church of Pakistan, said the incident was related to a lawsuit against Muhammad Iqbal, who had forcibly occupied church land.
Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha, and Peter Jacob, NCJP chairman and executive secretary, said in a joint statement, “Violence against weaker communities is resurfacing because the government failed to deal effectively with similar incidents that happened in the past. The most recent example is Sangla Hill where a due process of law has not taken place even 80 days after the desecration and destruction of three churches and Christian properties.”