On March 9 this year, a mob rampaged through a Christian neighborhood – Joseph Colony – in Badami Bagh police precincts, in Lahore, Pakistan. The colony was attacked and vandalized after a local Christian man was erroneously accused of blasphemy.
Over 100 houses were ransacked and torched, according to Zohra Yusuf of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, while the inhabitants fled for their lives, their children in tow. Police put the number of houses set aflame at 25. Windows were smashed and burned, valuables were looted – not a single house in the colony was spared. The mob destroyed everything. And yet the city’s police force failed to protect the residents of the colony, instead taking refuge in a warehouse nearby.
A few days after the tragic incident, the colony’s rehabilitation work was already underway. Burnt furniture and other household items were being piled into trucks to be ferried off out of sight. The houses were being re-built from scratch. The entire colony smelt of garbage, filth and burning steel and plastic. Tents had been set up throughout the neighborhood – a majority of which temporarily housed four to five family members, cramped in, sitting on broken furniture, humbly accepting whatever food and supplies were being distributed by individuals and aid organizations.
Amidst the tears and anger, there was visible trauma too. Polly, a middle-aged housewife told The Diplomat: “They burnt down our houses, they burnt our Bibles. You should have seen the way we had to run. Women and children, running, some children weren’t even wearing shoes…please don’t ask, please, we were in a very bad way.”
Lubna, another resident of the colony, was in tears as she described the fire. “I saw it with my own eyes. They [the mob] were laughing as they destroyed everything.”
As reported by The Express Tribune, the Additional Advocate General Punjab, Hanif Khatana, claimed that the police “avoided” clashing with the mob for fear of the incident being “blown out of proportion” lest someone were killed. However, Aftab Sultan, the Punjab Police Chief, has assured action against those officers for complete negligence and failure to protect Joseph Colony’s residents.
While the traumatized families of the colony struggle to get their lives back together following the harrowing incident, in a bizarre and unfortunate turn of events, many checks issued to the victims by the Punjab government bounced as soon as they were issued.