A Pakistan spokesperson announced the arrest of two Christian brothers for blasphemy Friday, according to Reuters. The two were accused of ripping pages from the Quran. Chapter XV of Pakistan’s Penal Code outlines several different forms of blasphemy against Islam. These criminalize conduct such as making derogatory remarks about Muhammad or the desecration of the Quran.
A mob of Muslim residents of Jaranwala stormed into a Christian residential neighborhood after the allegations against the Christians came to light. The mob, which was reportedly led by local clerics, destroyed Christian homes and torched Christian churches. Pakistan’s leadership expressed dismay against the targeted violence against a religious minority.
Bishop Azad Marshall of the Diocese of Raiwind said that Christians were “falsely accused” of violating the Quran. Bishop Marshall added, “We cry out for justice and action from law enforcement and those who dispense justice and the safety of all citizens to intervene immediately and assure us that our lives are valuable in our own homeland.” Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar responded, “All law enforcement has been asked to apprehend culprits and bring them to justice. Rest assured that the government of Pakistan stands with our citizenry on equal basis.”
In 2023, Pakistan’s parliament passed the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act, which updated the penal code to allow for harsher punishments for blasphemy. Proponents of the bill argued that previously mild, “simple punishments” led to the type of religious vigilante-ism seen against the Christian community this week. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said “while the stated aim of this bill is to curb sectarianism, HRCP believes it is likely to exacerbate the persecution of Pakistan’s beleaguered religious minorities and minority sects.”