The United States on Wednesday voiced alarm and urged Pakistan to investigate mob attacks against churches and Christian homes following rumors of blasphemy of Islam.
Hundreds of Muslim men attacked a predominantly Christian area on the outskirts of the eastern industrial city of Faisalabad on Wednesday, setting fire to churches.
“We are deeply concerned that churches and homes were targeted in response to reported Koran desecration in Pakistan,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.
He said that while the United States backed free expression, “violence or the threat of violence is never an acceptable form of expression.”
“We urge Pakistani authorities to conduct a full investigation into these allegations and call for calm,” he said.
Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where anyone deemed to have insulted Islam or Islamic figures can face the death penalty.
Critics say that rumors of insults to Islam are often fanned as a way to settle scores against non-Muslims.
The anti-Christian violence is the latest unrest in the world’s fifth-most populous country, where on Monday a little-known senator, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, was sworn in as caretaker prime minister to see through elections.
Secretary of State Antony Blinker offered congratulations to Kakar in a posting on Twitter, which has been rebranded as X.
“As Pakistan prepares for free and fair elections, in accordance with its constitution and the rights to freedom of speech and assembly, we will continue to advance our shared commitment to economic prosperity,” Blinken said.
Pakistan has been wracked by instability after Imran Khan, the country’s most popular politician, was removed as prime minister and more recently jailed on corruption charges that his supporters call an attempt to bar him from office.
Khan has accused the United States of working to oust him, claims strongly denied by Washington, which says that it had policy disagreements.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)