Members of Christian community holds a protest in Islamabad against violence in Christian locality in Badaami Bagh area Lahore. — Photo by INP

LAHORE: Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan took suo motu notice of Saturday's attack on Joseph Colony, a Christian neighbourhood, in Lahore's Badami Bagh area and sought by tomorrow a report from the Punjab's Inspector General of police and provincial advocate general over the incident, DawnNews reported.

The apex court's hearing over the case was expected to commence from Monday (Mar 11).

Several protests and demonstration were held on Sunday in various cities of Pakistan including Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad against Saturday's Badami Bagh incident in Lahore which saw at least 125 houses belonging to the Christian community burnt by a mob allegedly enraged over a blasphemy incident.

Members of the Christian community staged protests on Ferozepur road in Lahore. Some enraged demonstrators resorted to stone pelting and broke the windows of buses and stands of the recently-launched Metro Bus service in Lahore. Police also fired aerial shots to disperse the mob but to no avail.

Similarly members of civil society, along with members of Christian and other minority communities staged a demonstration infront of Karachi Press Club on Sunday. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) activists and lawmakers also participated in the sit-in.

Police personnel fired teargas shells to disperse the protesting demonstrators.

Similar demonstrations were held in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Spokesperson for Punjab Government, Pervez Rasheed said that those involved in the Badami Bagh incident would be tried under the anti-terror laws.

An initial investigation report over the incident was submitted by Punjab's Inspector General police to provincial Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif on Sunday according to which timely action by the police had prevented the loss of life.

The report further said that there were only a handful of people behind the incident and that the policemen avoided the use of gunfire and other lethal weapons in order to minimise the loss of life.

At least 131 persons were taken into custody who were suspected of involvement in Saturday's gruesome incident whereas a letter was written to the Lahore High Court's registrar requesting for a judicial inquiry into the incident.

The chief minister was informed that those involved in the incident were being identified with the help of CCTV footage of the attack.

President Asif Ali Zardari met with Prime Minister Raja Pervez ASshraf and Governor Punjab Makhdoom Ahmed Mahmood in Karachi and discussed the situation after Saturday's arson attack. It was decided after the meeting that Rs 500,000 would be paid as compensation  to the victims.

Earlier during the day, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf ordered for the provision complete assistance to all affectees belonging to the minority community .

Prime Minister Raja spoke to Minister of State for National Harmony Akram Masih and advisor Paul Bhatti and instructed them to maintain contact the victims of the Badami Bagh incident.

Construction material and other related equipment began to arrive in Badami Bagh area on Sunday for the rehabilitation of the destroyed neighbourhood.

Blasphemy accused

Meanwhile, Sawan Masih, accused of Blasphemy Act behind the  Badami Bagh incident was kept in a special cell at Camp Jail in Lahore with the deployment of round the clock armed guards.

When contacted Deputy Superintendent of Jail Abdul Razzaq Khan Niazi told APP that one barrack out of total 23 was already reserved for such cases and the accused were kept in it for their security and safety, adding that no other inmates was  allowed to come to this cell except jailers on duty.

He further said, according the jail manual it is the sole responsibility of Superintendent of Jail to fully ensure proper protection to the life of all accused and convicts irrespective of nature of offence. Hence Superintendent Jail, Ejaz Asghar has directed for taking all possible measure for his safety. HRCP statement

The shocking incident occurred after a Christian young man was accused of blasphemy. It is regrettable that Punjab administration has not learnt any lesson from previous incidents such as those in Gojra and Shantinagar, and has totally failed in providing protection to a minority community under siege, HRCP said in a statement.

Instead of investigating the case, the police arrested Christians while those who went on a rampage and can easily be identified from television footage have gone scot free, the report claimed.

The attack is yet another shameful incident against a vulnerable community and further confirmation of the slide toward extremism in society on the one hand and, on the other hand, the apathy and inaction that has become norm among the police.

Handing out compensation cheques is not a solution, so strong action against those responsible must be ensured, it said.


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