A demonstration held in Rawalpindi on 15 May 1998; treatment of protestors/marchers by the police [PAK35955.E]

Please consult PAK31769.E of 15 April 1999 for information on the events leading up to the demonstrations held in Lahore, Hyderabad, and Rawalpindi in May 1998.

On 16 May 1998, Dawn Wire Service reported on the demonstration at Rawalpindi as follows:

Tension gripped many areas in Rawalpindi when Muslims and Christians on Friday staged separate demonstrations simultaneously on the issue of blasphemy law, causing injuries to several people and damage to government and private property.
Heavy contingents of the police resorted to teargas shelling and baton-charge to disperse the protesters, and arrested some 60 Christians for damaging property and violating section 144, under which all types of demonstrations and rallies had been banned on Murree Road by the district administration.
Activists of the Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and the Jamiat Ahle Sunnat Waljamaat also staged a peaceful demonstration at Fowara Chowk and warned the government of dire consequences if it made any amendment to the blasphemy law.
The Christians staged demonstrations at many places in the city, including Lalkurti, Ariya Mohalla, Tariqabad, Iqbal Road, Committee Chowk and DAV College Road and demanded the repeal of the blasphemy law.
When the leaders of Christian community started their speeches, some young Christian men came on the stage and said they had gathered there for the protest not to hear the speeches dictated by the district administration.
The organizers of the function asked those young Christians to lodge their protest peacefully. However, the young people refused to obey the orders of their elders and went on protest at Murree Road.
The demonstrators, led by Sohail Ishtiaq and Dr David, were carrying sticks, placards and banners inscribed with different slogans. They were also raising slogans against the government and termed the blasphemy law "black and blind law."
Earlier, the police present at Murree Road asked the protesters to disperse peacefully and not to create any untoward incident. In the meantime, the demonstrators pelted stones on the police party and private cars, causing damage to several shops and private vehicles.
In retaliation, the police resorted to baton-charge and teargas shelling to disperse the agitators, causing injuries to several of them.
The reports of minor clashes between the Christians and the police were received till the filing of the news as this seek and hide between the police and protesters continued till dark.

AFP reported that, according to witnesses, Muslims burned tires in the streets of Rawalpindi "in various areas to condemn Christian outrage against the blasphemy law" (15 May 1998). Dawn reported that the police in Rawalpindi "lodged cases against 73 Christian protestors and rounded up 69 who allegedly clashed with Muslims" (16 May 1998). A later report also put the number of Christians arrested at 73 and reported that, according to unnamed sources, "all those arrested were beaten up severely on their arrival at the police station" (Joel News 30 May 1998). In contrast, International Fides Service, a newsletter of the Pontifical Mission Society for the Propagation of the Faith, reported that "in contrast to the Lahore incident... peaceful marches were held May 15th in Rawalpindi, Gujuranwala, Quetta and other cities" (29 May 1998). No information on subsequent charges could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please see below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Response.


Agence France Press (AFP). 15 May 1998. "Scores Injured in Clashes Between Police and Christians in Pakistan." (NEXIS)

Dawn Wire Service [Karachi]. 16 May 1998. "Blasphemy Law: Christians, SSP and Other Hold Demos." http://www.lib.virginia.edu/area-studies/SouthAsia/SAserials/Dawn/1998/16May98.html [Accessed 9 Nov. 2000]

Dawn [Karachi]. 16 May 1998. "Police, Christians Clash in Lahore." http://www.karachipage.com/news/may98/051698.txt [Accessed 9 Nov. 2000]

International Fides Service [Rome]. 29 May 1998. "Pakistan." http://www.fides.org/English/e19980529.html#e364 [Accessed 9 Nov. 2000]

Joel News International [Utrecht]. 30 May 1998. "Christians in India Pray for Pakistan." http://www.xs4all.nl/~mvdwoude/news-en/jn197.htm [Accessed 9 Nov. 2000]

Additional Sources Consulted

Pakistan Country File. Resource Centre.

IRB Databases


World News Connection (WNC)

Internet Sites including:

Amnesty International

Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999

Country Reports 1999

Dawn [Karachi]

Human Rights Watch

Immigration and Nationality Directorate, UK

International Association for Religious Freedom

Persecution of Christians in Pakistan

Religious Freedom in the Majority Islamic Countries 1998 Report

South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre (SAHRDC)