Pakistani Christians take to streets after homes burned

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PAKISTANI Christians took to the streets across the country yesterday, demanding better protection after a Christian neighbourhood was torched in the city of Lahore a day earlier in connection with the country’s controversial anti-blasphemy law.

Police fired into the air in Lahore and Karachi, to try to disperse protesters furious at the arson attack, which caused no casualties.

The latest incident began on Friday after a Muslim in Lahore accused a Christian man of blasphemy. A day later, hundreds of angry Muslims rampaged through the Christian district of Saint Joseph Colony, burning about 170 houses.

Akram Gill, a local bishop in the Lahore Christian community, said the incident had more to do with personal enmity between the two men involved than blasphemy. Punjab’s law minister Rana Sanaullah Khan condemned the protests: “We will bring the culprits [arsonists] to the gallows ... But Christians should not take the law into their hands”.

Rights campaigners say the anti-blasphemy law in Pakistan is widely used against religious minorities. According to Human Rights Watch, there are at least 16 people on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy.