Christians were burned alive in their homes after rumours that the Koran had been defaced spread through a city in Pakistan. Hundreds of Muslims torched and looted Christian homes in Gorja. A man, a woman and four children were burned to death in their house, and two other men were shot dead by the rioters. The rumour about the Koran was false and had been instigated by members of a banned extremist Muslim extremist group, said Pakistani security officials yesterday.
Paramilitary forces were sent to Gorja to help control the situation, said interior minister Rehman Malik, following allegations the police had failed to respond quickly enough to Saturday’s violence. ‘Usually, Muslims and Christians live together peacefully,’ he added. 'There have been some miscreants involved in this incident. We are investigating that.'
Yesterday one shopkeeper in Gorja described the atmosphere in the city as ‘grim and tense’.
Minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti said 40 Christian homes were set fire to on Saturday in rioting led by the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba group. It has been blamed for attacks on security forces and a number of bombings in recent years.
Christians make up only 4 per cent of Pakistan’s 170million population. Mosty of the rest are Sunni Muslims. Although the two communities generally live peacefully, radicals have periodically targeted churches and their worshippers.
Minorities also face intimidation from discriminatory laws, including one that carries the death penalty for using derogatory language against Islam, the Koran and the Prophet Mohammed. The law is often misused to settle personal scores and rivalries.