KARACHI, Pakistan — Police officials said Thursday that they were investigating a fire this week that destroyed the office of a Christian cable television station in this southern port city.
By SABA IMTIAZ
Employees of the station, Gawahi TV, said the fire at their office was deliberately set.
There have been a number of recent attacks on religious minorities in Pakistan. More than a dozen people were killed in two bombings outside churches in Lahore in March, and Christians in Pakistan are routinely targeted by sectarian militant groups and local criminals.
Last week, a factory was burned, and a mosque owned by the Ahmadis, a Muslim sect considered heretical by Pakistan’s Sunni majority, was attacked over allegations that a factory worker had burned pages of the Quran. Army troops were called in to calm the situation in Jhelum, a city in Punjab Province.
Such acts of violence have continued in Pakistan despite the government’s repeated pledges to safeguard religious minorities, prompting some advocates of religious rights to question the government’s commitment.
The fire at Gawahi TV’s office was reported around 3 a.m. on Tuesday and took nearly two hours to extinguish. By daybreak, the three-room office was a burned-out hulk.
On Thursday, employees who days before had been planning their Christmas broadcast schedule gingerly stepped around large piles of half-burned religious books as they walked through the office. A charred copy of the Bible sat atop the reception desk.
Javed William, whose brother, Pastor Sarfraz William, is the owner of Gawahi TV, said the fire appeared to be a planned attack. “The door locks were cut and the things were not where we had left them,” he said, adding that a security camera system had been destroyed in the fire.
Employees said computers were destroyed or stolen.
“The hard disks are missing,” said Irfan Daniel, an assistant manager. “Someone did this with a lot of thought.”
Javed William said he was not aware of any threats to the organization. “This is not an attack on us,” he said. “It is an attack on Christianity. Whoever did this does not want God’s work to happen.”
Gawahi TV’s religious programming includes recitations of the Bible, Christian hymns and music videos, and is shown on local cable networks in Karachi.
On Thursday, the channel broadcast images of its damaged office, with Pastor William sitting amid the rubble. “A lot of people called and said, ‘We’d protest at one call from you,’ ” Javed William said. “We said our God does not allow us to do this.”
Source: The New York Times