On the night of Thursday, August 24th, the Christian residents of Dhok Syeedan in Rawalpindi found themselves forced to lock their homes and flee to safety. The cause for this exodus was a baseless rumor that their homes were to be set ablaze due to alleged blasphemy committed by Christians in the area. Reports indicate that over 90% of the Christian residents left their homes in response to the false alarm.
The Pakistani police and law enforcement agencies promptly intervened to rectify the situation, preventing the potential violence and ensuring the safety of the community. It was revealed that the rumor was ignited by a dispute between two brothers, one of whom had converted from Christianity to Islam. The converted brother, having financial grievances, sought revenge through false accusations of blasphemy, enlisting the support of Muslim clerics to further his agenda.
The converted individual, previously known as Sagar Masih and now identified as Raza Ahmad, had borrowed 400,000 Rs. (£1045) from someone and, allegedly unable to repay the loan, had converted to Islam in July 2023. He demanded a share of his family’s inheritance, which was denied, leading him to accuse his family of blasphemy and producing burnt Quranic papers as evidence.
On the eve of the incident, Raza Ahmad called his family and, in a menacing tone, threatened to emulate the tragic events of Jaranwala by burning their homes and church. A local mosque then announced that Christians had desecrated the Quran, calling for collective action after Friday prayers to burn down Christian homes in a manner similar to the Jaranwala incident.
Prompt action from law enforcement agencies, including the Rangers and police, prevented the situation from escalating into violence. Police presence remained strong in Dhok Syeedan following the incident to ensure the safety of those who chose to remain in their homes.
Federal Minister for Human Rights, Mr. Khalil George, and senior police officials visited Dhok Syeedan, underscoring the need to thwart attempts to create conflict between Muslims and Christians through false rumors.
The Christian community’s swift response to a baseless rumor highlights the underlying fears and vulnerability that persist in the wake of incidents like the Jaranwala tragedy, where hundreds of houses and around 26 churches were set ablaze on August 16th, 2023, despite the presence of law enforcement officers (click here).