The Irish Government are busily recruiting trainee Gardaí with a full scale TV advertising campaign in Pakistan where they are in competition with the Taliban who are also recruiting police there for Afghanistan. Garda recruitment is taking place in an environment where Christians and other religious minorities are being systematically targeted with escalating sectarian attacks with police complicity. Is such a sectarian society a suitable or an appropriate environment from which to recruit future Gardaí? Pakistan is a society where sectarianism is brutally violent and commonplace and where it is either condoned or largely ignored by the authorities. This is a country where rampant police corruption and extra judicial killings are endemic. Is this the kind of society any sane country would target for the recruitment of its police force?
A Sick Sectarian Society
Attacks on Christian residential areas and centres of worship are motivated by the country’s controversial blasphemy laws which serves to give them the stamp of official justification. There has also been political motivation. Religious minorities including Christians and other religious minorities are increasingly being targeted for attack and even murder amid the growing Islamicisation of Pakistan. Since the 1990’s, scores of Christians have been convicted of “desecrating the Koran” or “blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad” and that doesn’t include mob rule, terrorist attacks and lynching’s of Christians. That’s the rule of law or its absence, the social environment and the prevailing attitude from among which future Gardaí are being recruited. Severe discrimination and attacks against religious minorities have led the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom to designate Pakistan as a country of “particular concern”. Not for Gardaí recruitment though.
Pakistan is an overwhelmingly Muslim country with 2.6 million Christians and similar number of Hindus making up its main minority groups, each with about 1.6% of the population. Before the partition of India, what is now Pakistan was a much more diverse and tolerant place but society has become increasingly Islamicised. Before the British imposed partition, minorities amounted to 15% of the population. They now account for less than 4% and their future prospects are looking bleak in a rampantly sectarian society. Wealthy Christians are leaving Pakistan where the climate of intolerance has become unbearable. The vast majority of poor Christians are not so lucky. Do we in Ireland want to import people from a sick society where endemic sectarianism is nurtured and put them in positions of power and authority?
“An Garda Síochána is an increasingly diverse organisation. We have one of the highest rates of female officers in Europe and in our last Garda competition more than 20% of applicants were from minority communities. However, we recognise that we have more to do in this regard to meet our aim of being fully representative of the people we serve.” Gardaí,” Commissioner Harris said.
Attacks on Christians
Accusations of blasphemy inflame mob violence against Christians with militant Islamists targeting the Christian community.
Recent attacks include:
- Attack on a churchin Quetta in December 2017. Nine people were killed and 57 were injured.
- Suicide attack on Christianscelebrating Easter at a Lahore playground in March 2016. 70 Christians were killed and 340 more were wounded.
- In Lahore two Christian churches bombed in March 2015 killing 14 and injuring 70 more.
- In Peshawar twin suicide bombers kill 80 in an attack on a church congregation in 2013.
- Gojra town in Punjab in 2009, some 40 houses and a church were burnt by a mob. Eight people were burnt alive.
- In Ramsha Masih in 2012 a Christian girl was the first non-Muslim to be acquitted of blasphemy following the discovery she had been framed by a Muslim cleric.
- Faisalabad 2005, hundreds of Christian fled their homes as their churches and schools were burned by a mob, after a Christian was accused of burning pages of the Koran.
- In 2010 Asia Bibi, a Christian woman from a Punjab village got into an altercation with some Muslim women who later accused her of blasphemy.
- Salman Taseer, the Punjabi governor stated that Pakistan’s strict blasphemy law in this case had been abused. He was later murdered by his Islamist bodyguard.
- Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s minister for minority affairs and a Christian leader, was assassinated in 2011 by the Taliban for speaking out against the blasphemy law.
Public safety is the key to police legitimacy and in Pakistan minorities don’t feel safe and are not safe. Can we feel safe in Ireland with police from that environment on our streets?
Christians Under Attack
Pakistani Christians in recent years have been the target of escalating attacks. Christians have faced persecution, targeted killings including the shooting of a Catholic man and a priest in two separate incidents last year. Christians are subjected to forced conversions, forced marriages, mob violence, destruction of places of worship and violation of graves by perpetrators encouraged by religious incitement, the absence of action from the authorities and widespread impunity.
Christians are among the poorest in Pakistan and may be used as a political pawn. Anti-Christian violence has been a reaction to the American-led war in Afghanistan. After the US-led coalition attacked Afghanistan in late 2001, a grenade attack killed four people in a Christian mission hospital chapel in Taxila city followed a few months later when gunmen murdered six Christian charity workers in their Karachi office. Such attacks on Christians have continued unabated through the years. This may be a strategy by the country’s powerful military who protected Islamist militants operating in Afghanistan and India, and supported anti-blasphemy vigilante groups in the past.
Death and Despair haunt Pakistan’s Christians
The Christian minority has been heavily persecuted under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, with a possible death sentence for anyone found guilty of insulting Islam. According to the Centre for Social Justice a Lahore-based NGO, seven Christians were charged and imprisoned under blasphemy charges in 2021. At least two more were tried for the same crime in separate incidents in 2022. The threat of being accused of blasphemy is used extensively to intimidate the non-Muslim community. That is the environment and the mind set where Ireland goes to recruit Gardaí. “Few institutions in Irish life are as respected as An Garda Síochána. The close connection between Gardaí and the communities they serve is the envy of police services around the world” said Justice Minister Simon Harris whose recruiting campaign is about to kill that stone dead. Is he intent on recruiting new Black and Tans?