The protests and riots that spread across the cities of northern Punjab were ostensibly sparked off by the twin church bombings in Lahore by the Taliban; they may be the immediate trigger, but the spontaneous – and uncharacteristic - outrage displayed by the Christian community betrays a deeper issue: the fact that the Christian minority in Pakistan has been increasingly alienated by successive governments.

The anger was not directed at the Taliban but towards a government that had failed to protect them. The protests represent decades’ worth of persecution that the minority has to face. The Christian community has invariably been bearing the brunt of the blasphemy law; mostly on trumped up charges. Horrific acts such as the lynching of a couple in Kot Radha Krishan and the razing of a hundred houses at the hands of a mob in Joseph Colony are a regular feature. Despite these incidents, only when the government’s apathy had reached breaking point did the community react. Almost inevitably, the investigations into such incidents are quietly forgotten and the police are let off with a slap on the wrist. When they try to raise a voice against such oppression, their champions are murdered and the state lets the killers walk free.

The mob that lynched a common glasscutter, thinking him a militant, and the subsequent one that rampaged through parts of several cities are in the wrong, surely. Their behaviour cannot be justified, but we have to realize that it is the government’s actions that lead the desperate and frustrated crowd to take up arms. This is a first; the way the minority community has taken to the streets, signalling greater danger of social collapse. Just like Sunni ISIS’ atrocities produced a mirror Shia militia, the government needs to address the concerns of the minority before they decide to take matters in their own hands.