It was midnight in Youhanabad – a largely Christian neighbourhood in Lahore. Men and women, both young and old, were keeping watch. Some sat on charpoys and wooden benches, while others walked about patrolling the streets.
The songs of prayers intermingled with the thump of the dholak – or drum – through the haunting darkness of downtrodden streets.
The residents of Youhanabad were protecting their men from the police – three weeks after a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, had executed twin blasts, the very state institutions that were supposed to protect them were the ones that they feared.
“We trust you. Believe me, we do. But please, do not photograph us,” the woman singing hymns said to me when I approached her with my camera. Despite seeing me with the neighbourhood’s senior priest – who had vouched for me – they were too afraid to let anyone know about their night watch, or let anyone see their faces in photographs. This was in 2015.
The fear of abandonment
Today, fear and a sense of abandonment by the state resides in the collective consciousness of the Pakistani Christians. While Christians poured on to the streets following the last twin bombings against their community, this time they remained indoors.
The community and several rights activists think that the silence of Christians after last week’s bombings in Lahore’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal park is not only out of fear of militants.
Unlike the recent suicide blast by the Pakistani Taliban, which intended to target Easter celebrations at a park in Lahore, the blasts in Youhanabad last year prompted local Christians to come out of their homes in droves to call for justice. In the heat of the moment, two Muslims were killed
By the time I visited the neighbourhood in April 2015, more than 150 men and boys had been arbitrarily detained by the police for murder and vandalism.
Families and rights groups did not know about the locations of their loved ones for at least a month and a half after the detentions.
The state’s “picking up” of Christian men from their streets and beds in the middle of the night continued till October 2015. Today, 43 Christians remain in jail on murder charges of two Muslims, according to the lawyers, rights activists and members of the community I spoke with.
On the face of it, arresting and charging a group of men for murder looks legal and reasonable. But, Christians in Pakistan are among some of the poorest and most marginalised populations in the country.
This marginalisation manifests itself most violently through the ill-application of a justice system, and legal redress is tenuous at best
For More: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/04/neverending-plight-christians-pakistan-160406095729110.html
Source: Islamic News Daily