Accountability vital to stop Jaranwala-like incidents from recurring, bishop says

The head of the Church of Pakistan, the country’s largest Protestant church, on Friday reiterated the minority community’s demand to hold the government officials responsible for inaction in the Jaranwala incident accountable through a fair and transparent judicial investigation.

Addressing an event at the Salvation Army church in Jaranwala, which was among multiple churches that were ransacked by charged mobs on Aug 16, Church of Pakistan President Bishop Azad Marshall said that though Christians appreciated the government’s action against the mob leaders, the community believed that such incidents would continue to recur until the perpetrators are sternly dealt by the law and concrete measures are adopted to prevent religiously-motivated violence.

The event was organized by Salvation Army’s Territorial Commander Colonel McDonald Chandi in honour of an official delegation of the British High Commission to Pakistan led by Deputy High Commissioner Andrew Dalgleish.

“The Jaranwala incident marked the eleventh significant episode since 1997 involving the persecution of the Christian community and we want this to be the last such incident. Unfortunately, no action has ever been taken against police and government officials responsible for negligence in any of these incidents,” he said.

Marshall regretted that the Punjab caretaker government had turned down the Christians’ legitimate demand for a judicial investigation into the Jaranwala incident compelling them to move the Lahore High Court.

“My objective of filing the petition for the formation of a judicial commission was to hold a thorough inquiry into the underlying causes of such attacks and hold the police and district officials responsible for inaction accountable. The government has now shown its willingness to review its decision and we hope to hear encouraging news in the next hearing on Dec 21,” he said.

Marshall said that minority communities were equal citizens of Pakistan according to the country’s constitution and they should not be treated as second-class citizens by the government. He called for the release of the compensation money to all victim families, noting that the renovation work on the churches that was promised by the government had also stopped because of non-payment to the contractors.

Addressing the event, British High Commissioner Andrew Dalgleish said the delegation was visiting Jaranwala to express solidarity with the victims of the Aug 16 violence. “We are also pleased to see the unity between all denominations of the Christian faith on this issue and assure our support in their pursuit for justice,” he said.

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