34 nominated, 600 unknown suspects booked after Jaranwala tragedy

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A police officer walks past the belongings of the residents along a street in a Christian neighbourhood, a day after the church buildings and houses were vandalised by protesters in Jaranwala, August 17, 2023. —  Reuters
A police officer walks past the belongings of the residents along a street in a Christian neighbourhood, a day after the church buildings and houses were vandalised by protesters in Jaranwala, August 17, 2023. —  Reuters
  • Entry points leading to Christian locality blocked.
  • Day of Condemnation to be observed today.
  • 21 churches, hundreds of copies of Bible burned.

JARANWALA/LAHORE: Following the recent rampage in Jaranwala, the city’s police have registered a case against 34 and nominated 600 unknown under 18 sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), The News reported Friday.

The publication further claimed that 29 nominated suspects have been arrested in connection with the Wednesday rampage.

A crowd on Wednesday vandalised several churches and set scores of houses on fire in Jaranwala town of the industrial district of Faisalabad after clerics made announcements in mosques inciting the mob to attack the Christian community under allegations of blasphemy.

Paramilitary troops were called in to handle the violence and bring the situation under control, according to a government order seen by Reuters.

The police on Thursday also nominated Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) Jaranwala President Mufti Mohammad Younis Rizvi and Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) leader Syed Asifullah Shah in the case. The people of the area expressed their anguish over their nomination in the case.

The Rangers and police sealed the area around the Cinema Chowk on Thursday to prevent the entry of protesters.

All entry points leading to the Christian locality were also blocked by the administration. A local holiday was declared in the whole Tehsil.

Almost all shops and business centres remained closed in the city and business activities remained suspended. The Rangers and law enforcement personnel patrolled the roads.

The security of the burnt and other churches was increased by the administration and armed policemen were deployed there.

‘Conspiracy’

A statement by the Punjab government spokesman said the Jaranwala incident was the result of a well-thought-out conspiracy. It said the alleged incident started after two Christian brothers, Raja Aamer Masih and Raki Masih, desecrated Holy Quran in the Christian Basti of the city.

At the time, their sister protested the act, and later information about the incident spread in the city.

However, the police failed to take timely action to avert the destruction caused by the mob. The police did not deploy security for the safety of churches and a mob set them on fire without any resistance.

The police conducted many raids and arrested dozens of people involved in the incidents. SHO Rodala Road Police Station Ghulam Rasool and Constable Mohammad Waqas were injured in a clash with people during raids to arrest the accused.

Joint gathering

Separately, caretaker Chief Minister Punjab Mohsin Naqvi said both individuals, accused of desecrating the Holy Quran, had been arrested by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD). The CM appreciated the tireless efforts of the Punjab chief secretary and inspector general of police (IGP).

Naqvi also chaired a joint gathering of leaders from diverse faiths, including Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Hindu, and Bahai communities. He expressed profound concern over the distressing incident.

Bishop Nadeem Kamran, Archbishop of Lahore (Roman Catholic), Bishop Sebastian Shah, Allama Hussain Akbar, Dr Raghib Hussain Naimi, Amarnath Randhawa, Rohia Maufadi, Pastor Mehnual Khokhar, Sardar Kalyan Singh Kalyan, Pandit Bhagat Lal, Maulana Zubair Hasan and others attended the meeting. The session concluded with a prayer led by Bishop Nadeem Kamran.

‘Stark contradiction to Islam’

Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz vehemently denounced the incidents that unfolded in Jaranwala, highlighting the disconnect between such actions and the core principles of religion, national laws, and societal norms. 

He, in a statement, asserted that the occurrences in Jaranwala stood in stark contradiction to the teachings of Islam, which espoused reverence for places of worship and religious symbols across all faiths.

Ayaz called for strict punishment to those who made announcements through mosque loudspeakers and incited violence against the Christian community. 

“Our religion and our national laws are rooted in respect, tolerance, and coexistence,” said Dr Ayaz adding, “Acts of violence, targeting individuals based on their beliefs, or attempting to take matters into one’s own hands due to alleged acts of religious blasphemy, find no endorsement within Islam.”

‘Swift action’

Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said Pakistan was fully determined to protect and promote the constitutionally-guaranteed rights and freedoms of individuals belonging to religious minorities.

In a statement, she said as a country following law and Constitution, Pakistan could not accept the intolerant and violent incident in Faisalabad. 

She said these acts are illegal and unconstitutional. 

“Our law enforcement authorities took swift action yesterday. They have been instructed by the prime minister to apprehend the culprits and bring them to justice,” she added.

Condemnation Day

Also, the Implementation of Minority Rights Forum claimed that 21 churches and hundreds of copies of the Bible were burned by the mob in Jaranwala on Wednesday. 

Majeed Abel, Senior Pastor Naulakha Church in Lahore, also endorsed the claim.

Meanwhile, the Muslim and Christian leaders of Pakistan termed the incident unacceptable and deplorable and demanded the arrest of the culprits and a speedy trial. 

A delegation of Muslim Ulema-Mashaykh tendered an apology to the Christian leaders and Christian community over the desecration of their sacred places and holy books. 

They also announced observing Condemnation Day on Friday, August 18.

Speaking to the media along with the Muslim and Christian leadership at Cathedral Church Lahore, Hafiz Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi said the government should get repaired and rebuild all holy places of the Christian community, damaged in the ugly incident. 

Those involved inflicted injury on both Islam and Pakistan, he said. On behalf of the entire Pakistan and the Muslim community, he tendered an apology to the Christian community.

The Ulema-Mashaykh also said the Jaranwala incident would also be condemned in Friday sermons all over the country, and a high-level delegation of religious leaders would also visit Jaranwala on Saturday.

Chairman Pakistan Ulema Council Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, Archbishop Sebastian Shah, Pastor Emmanuel Khokhar, Pastor Saleem, Maulana Nauman Hasher, Maulana Muhammad Shafi Qasmi, Maulana Asadullah Farooq, Maulana Zubair Abid, Maulana Muhammad Ashfaq Patafi, Maulana Tahir Aqeel Awan, Maulana Muhammad Aslam Siddiqui, Qari Abdul Hakeem Athar, Maulana Muhammad Aslam Qadri, Mufti Naseem Islam, Maulana Qari Mubashir Rahimi and others said that those who attacked the sacred places of the Christian community defamed Islam and Pakistan.

PPP statement

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Peoples Party Human Rights Cell strongly condemned the attack on a church. 

“This cowardly act of violence against a religious place is an affront to the principles of religious freedom and tolerance that our nation upholds,” it said in a statement. 

“The attack on the church in Jaranwala not only violates the fundamental rights of the Christian community but also undermines the fabric of our diverse society,” it stated.

The PPP HR Cell called upon the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the attack and bring the perpetrators to justice swiftly.

Thorough, impartial investigation

Also, former Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee chairman Mufti Muneebur Rehman denounced the Jaranwala incident in the strongest terms and called for a thorough and impartial investigation to ensure accountability and justice in the matter.

Speaking out against biased or one-sided positions, he, in a statement, emphasised the importance of upholding the law without favouritism.

“The responsibility of safeguarding the lives, property, and honour of every citizen, regardless of their background, rests with the state,” said the Mufti who is also the president of Tanzeemul Madaris and Darul Uloom Naeemia, Karachi.


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