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2 killed as rioters burn down churches in Multan - The Asian Age

AFP ()
7 February 1997

Title : 2 killed as rioters burn down churches in Multan
Author : AFP
Publication : The Asian Age
Date : February 7, 1997

A mob of 30,000 Muslim rioter on Thursday went on the
rampage in a central Pakistani town, setting fire to two
Christian churches in violence which left two people
dead, the police said.

Troops were deployed in Khanewal, 60 km east of Multan on
Thursday as violent clashes broke out between the police
and the mob during the anti-Christian protest which left
scores on people injured.

Two people were dead and at least five others sustained
bullet injuries when the police opened fire after tear-
gas shelling and baton charges failed to scatter the mob,
the residents said.

Dozens of other demonstrators and several officers were
injured during scuffles between the police and the rock-
throwing mob, many of them armed with stick, they said.

Troops were called in and fanned out across the violence
wracked area of Khanewal, cordoning off two Christian
villages to protect their residents, the police said.

The situation was tense but under control after the
military moved in later on Thursday, an administration
official in Khanewal said.

The police earlier to disperse the mob, protesting
against alleged desecration of the Quran, by the

The trouble erupted late on Wednesday after Muslim
worshippers in a village close to Khanewal claimed that
crushed pages of the Quran and slips nearing insulting
remarks against Prophet Mohammad had been thrown into
their mosque.

The worshippers blamed the sacrilege on unidentified
people from two nearby village inhabited exclusively by
Christians, a minority in 96 per cent Islamic Pakistan.

A few thousand Muslims soon began gathering and marched
towards the Christian villages but were forced back by
the police called in to keep the tension under control.

The two Christian villages, Shantinagar and Bhootabad,
were hit by religious tension for several days last month
as their residents alleged desecration of the Bible by a
Muslim policeman, the police said.

The policeman was accused of throwing a Bible to the
ground as a police team searched for a Christian wanted
in a kidnapping case in the villages. The trouble
subsided after the policeman was suspended from duty and
an inquiry was ordered. Christians account for three per
cent of Pakistan's 130-million predominantly Muslim
population. They have frequently demanded repeal of the
country's Blasphemy Law which lays down the death penalty
for the offence of defiling the Prophet Mohammed. The
minorities allege that the law is used by religious
militants to harass them.

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