The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed alarm over a number of disturbing developments including the assault on journalist Raza Rumi and attacks on temples in Sindh and called these a new wave of intolerance.
In a statement issued on Monday the Commission said, “HRCP has grave concerns over a number of recent incidents, including an attack on Raza Rumi in Lahore, a spate of assaults at Hindu temples, the most recent one being in Hyderabad, and the death sentence for Sawan Masih in a blasphemy case.
“HRCP believes that we are witnessing a new wave of intolerance and these instances stem from the same motivation. While the court’s verdict against Sawan is another matter, the assault on the Christian-dominated Joseph Colony in Lahore in March 2013 and torching of over 100 houses in Swan’s neighbourhood following the charge of blasphemy is part of the same wave. It is a matter of concern that while Sawan has been sentenced to death a year after the incident, cases against those involved in the arson and looting are not progressing. “HRCP implores the government not to be a mere spectator as this new phase of intolerance gets under way.
“The targeted attack on Rumi sends a message to all journalists who dare to speak their mind. If well-known journalists can be targeted in the heart of Lahore in such a brazen manner the challenges for media workers and indeed for the freedom of expression elsewhere in the country are not too difficult to imagine.
“We are very concerned at the spread of intolerance and temples being torched and attacked in areas where citizens of all faiths had long lived in harmony. Preventing attacks on Hindu temples in the short term should not be too difficult. Improved security and apprehension of the culprits involved in recent attacks would almost immediately have an impact. In the medium to long term, more effective and sustainable ways to weed out intolerance and deny sympathy and impunity for the perpetrators must be the goal.
HRCP urges political and religious leaders to reconsider their past practice of calling for reform of the blasphemy law only following widely reported instances of the law being abused and not persisting with that demand. The government should also show some initiative by facilitating the discourse highlighting the immediate need for reforming the blasphemy law. The problem is not confined to any one part of the country and the worrying trend can only be reversed if the federal and all provincial governments and civil society make urgent and sincere collective efforts.