PAKISTAN: Christian brothers slain in another attack on a minority


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Two brothers, members of Pakistan’s beleaguered Christian minority, walked out of the Faisalabad courthouse in shackles and escorted by a local police officer. In seconds, two gunmen opened fire on the brothers, killing them and seriously wounding the officer.

The July 19 slayings of Rashid and Sajjad Emmanuel were the latest in a long line of attacks on Pakistan’s religious and ethnic minorities, including Christians, Hindus, Shia Muslims, Ahmadis and Sikhs. In the case of Christians, the common link often is the country’s controversial blasphemy law, which makes it a crime to make derogatory remarks about Islam or desecrate the Koran.

In the past, false allegations of blasphemy-law violations have been lodged against Christians; the allegations were then used by extremist groups to justify attacking the Christian community. Pakistanis locked in land or business disputes with Christians often file false blasphemy-law cases as a means of score-settling.

Pakistani news accounts of the attacks on Rashid, 32, and Sajjad, 30, suggest that the brothers may have been set up. They were arrested July 2 on charges that they had distributed pamphlets containing derogatory remarks about the prophet Muhammad. The pamphlets included the brothers’ names and phone numbers, which led some Pakistani newspapers and human rights activists to doubt the charges.

“It defies logic that anyone, let alone a member of a minority community, given the possible fallout of such an act in today’s Pakistan, would be so foolish as to reveal their identity and other details on such a document,” the Daily Times newspaper stated in an editorial this week.

The gunmen who fired on the brothers remain at large. President Asif Ali Zardari and other top Pakistani government leaders have denounced the attacks, but human rights groups and some in the Pakistani media have urged the government to take the next step and repeal the blasphemy law.

The law, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn wrote in an editorial Wednesday, “helps foster a societal mindset of jungle justice where individuals feel that it is right to take the law into their own hands.”

-- Alex Rodriguez in Islamabad, Pakistan