By Jawad Mazhar BosNewsLife Special Correspondent reporting from Pakistan
SARGODHA, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife) -- Pakistani police ransacked run-down homes of Christians living in a slum of Pakistan's 10th largest city and "severely tortured Christian women" leaving several of them "critically injured", local residents told BosNewsLife.
The situation in the â€˜Maryam Townâ€™ area of the city of Sargodha in Punjab province remained tense Friday, December 19, after police, dressed in plain clothes, stormed several homes last week, witnesses said.
Police, arriving in two vehicles, allegedly made their way into at least two Christian homes on December 11, wrecking house hold appliances and other valuables.
During the raids, "policemen also inflicted severe torture on Christian women leaving them critically injured...[They] left with their bags containing cash, jewelry and pricey cosmetics," said residents protesting against the violence in front of the nearby police station.
Christian families also lost their mobile phones, a licensed gun and other household valuables, Christians said.
Christian youngsters attempting to end the attacks against women, were allegdly beaten with truncheons.â€œThose ruthless policemen arrested and took with them an innocent Christian youth Imran Masih with out any allegationsâ€, Christian protesters told BosNewsLife on condition of anonymity.
They said the young man was released after he was forced to pay a bribe of about 1000 Pakistani Rupees (some $13), a major amount in a country where average monthly wages hover around $90 or lower.
In a reaction, Sargodha Police chief Usman Anwer told BosNewsLife that he "condemns this sort of police terrorism" and that he wants those responsible to be prosecuted. Anwer said he had "issued directives to the Deputy Superintendent of Police of Sargodha to probe into the matter in detail and report back as soon as possible."
The attacks by police comes amid rising tensions between Christians and Muslims in the country.
Authorities have been under pressure to end extremism, but rights activists say police have often not done enough to protect the Christian minority in the country.
US-based Christian rights group International Christian Concern has expressed concern about the situation. "This group of police officers completely violated their charge to protect the innocent and uphold law and order," said ICC Regional Manager for South Asia, Samuel Wallace. "To their shame they have behaved instead like the very criminals they should be putting in jail," Wallace added.
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