FAISALABAD/LAHORE/GUJRANWALA: Members of the Christian community on Monday took to the streets in Faisalabad, Lahore and Gujranwala to register their protest over a Taliban attack on two churches in Lahore which left 15 people dead and more than 70 injured.
The bombings on Sunday occurred during prayers at two churches located around half a kilometre apart in the city's Youhanabad neighbourhood that is home to more than 100,000 Christians.
Major developments today:
One protester dead, seven injured during demonstrations in Lahore
Death toll from twin bombings climbs to 16
Protesters prevent MPA from entering church
Cases registered for church bombings
15 demonstrators taken into custody by police in Gujranwala
Protesters, Punjab government in discussion
The situation came under the control of police by evening, as fresh contingents arrived at the site of the protest. Rangers also reached the protest site on the directives of the Punjab Home Department. Water canons were also used to push back the protesters.
The talks between the Punjab government and Christian community have concluded successfully.
Authorities have decided to form an investigation committee to probe the suicide attacks on churches in Lahore.
Chaos in Youhanabad
Protesters in Lahore's Youhanabad area, where the twin bombings took place a day earlier, clashed with dozens of baton-wielding police personnel.
One protester was killed while several were injured when a car hit them at Ferozpur Road.
During the protest, stones were pelted at policemen holding up protective plastic shields. The police have been given instructions by the Punjab government to use tear gas to disperse the crowd.
|Police use tear gas as protest turns violent - DawnNews screen grab|
Christian community leader Kamran Michael appealed to fellow Christians to remain peaceful.
Protesters on Monday blocked roads in Lahore, Faisalabad, Sargodha and Gujranwala. They also blocking a major highway that runs near the two attacked churches and prevented cars from driving by, said police officer Bilal Ahmad.
Approximately 100 protesters gathered at Faisalabad's Millat road where they burnt tires and attacked a rickshaw. The protesters also blocked the Kamalpur Interchange on Faisalabad motorway.
|Protesters yield sticks as protest turns violent - DawnNews screen grab|
|Clash between protesters and police - DawnNews screen grab|
|Car damaged as protest turns violent - DawnNews screen grab|
The protesters then headed to Zila Council Chowk where they continued their demonstrations.
Protests have been taking place in various parts of Faisalabad since Sunday.
Following an attack on a metro bus in Lahore, authorities shortened bus routes today as approximately 200 people continued to protest in various parts of the provincial capital such as Youhanabad, Nishtar Colony and Bund road.
|People gathered to record their protest against the deadly church attacks - DawnNews screen grab|
Women also gathered for a sit-in protest and prayers for the deceased led by a priest in Youhanabad.
"The purpose of the sit-in is to shed light on the fact that the Christian community should be given protection and peaceful living conditions," one of the protesters told DawnNews.
|Demonstrators pelted stones as protest turned violent - DawnNews screen grab|
One protester dead, seven injured
A man died and another seven were injured when a car hit them at Ferozpur Road.
Police said the driver identified as Mariyam, a school teacher was going home when enraged protesters stopped her near Nishtar Colony.
The protesters encircled her car and started breaking windows, at which point, police said the terrified woman tried to escape and accidentally hit the demonstrators encircling her car.
The injured were taken to Lahore General Hospital where doctors pronounced one of them dead on arrival.
Police baton-charge protesters in Gujranwala
Police baton-charged protesters near the Pindi Bypass in Gujranwala. They also took 15 demonstrators into custody.
Punjab police constitutes JIT to probe Lahore church attacks
Punjab government on Monday constituted a joint investigation team (JIT) to investigate the twin attacks on churches in Youhanabad.
Deputy Inspector General Investigations Sahibzada Shehzad Sultan told Dawn that a JIT consisting of civil and military agencies had been constituted to investigate the attacks. He said that they started the investigation and efforts were being made to identify the suicide bombers through forensic reports and Nadra.
Police given green signal to tackle protesters
The Punjab government gave the provincial police the green signal to disperse protesters today.
Security officials were also told to use tear gas to ward off protesters charging at police personnel.
|Demonstrators gather during protest - DawnNews screen grab|
DawnNews reporters on the scene said Youhanabad and surrounding areas are full of angry protesters, some holding sticks and damaging vehicles.
TV footage also showed some men attacking a vehicle loaded with crates of soft beverages, and making off with dozens of bottles.
|Police gather to control demonstrators - DawnNews screen grab|
Death toll in Lahore church attacks rises to 16
The death roll in Lahore church attacks rises to 16 as one of the injured succumbs to his wounds.
25-year-old Khushi Masih, son of Radu Masih died of serious head injuries.
|Clash occurred between police and demonstrators in Lahore - DawnNews screen grab|
Protesters prevent MPA from entering church
Protesters on Ferozpur road in Lahore stopped Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) MPA Khalil Tahir Sindhu's car to prevent him from going towards Youhanabad.
Sindhu exited the car and continued walking towards Youhanabad when protesters pushed him and shouted slogans against the government, demanding Sindhu to turn back.
|Bricks thrown by demonstrators during protest - DawnNews screen grab|
The protesters lamented that incidents such as these take place during the PML-N government's tenure and that they were not in favour of visits from the PML-N.
Cases registered over Lahore church attacks
Lahore police on Monday registered two cases — under Section 302, 109 and 324 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) — of the blasts at the Nishtar Colony police station. The cases were filed on the complaint of Father Francis Gulzar and Father Irshad.
SSP Investigations Rana Ayyaz Saleem said that police high-ups were holding consultation over the registration of a case over the lynching of two suspects by enraged protesters.
Mosques, churches and schools soft targets for terrorists: Nisar
Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has said on Monday that noose around terrorists is being tightened and they (terrorists) are now attacking soft targets including mosques, churches and school in utter desperation.
Briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior in Islamabad, the federal interior minister brief the meeting over the performance of the interior ministry and said that the country's overall law and order situation had improved 'as a result of the government's effective counter terrorism policy'.
"We have shrunk the space for them to operate in,” he said.
Nisar, however, asked the nation to stand firm to take the war on terror to its logical conclusion and added, "We should remain united to foil their (terrorists') nefarious designs."
Condemning the terrorist attack on churches in Lahore a day earlier as an inhumane act, the interior minister said those who committed the act do not belong to any religion.
He said, "No religion of the world allows such acts."
The federal minister further said that those who took the law into their hand in the wake of the incident had also forwarded the agenda of terrorists who want to create wedge, division, discord and frustration in the society.
Sunday's attacks — claimed by the Taliban's splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar — were the worst on the community since a devastating 2013 double suicide-bombing in Peshawar that killed 82 people.
That attack came months after more than 3,000 protesters torched some 100 houses as they rampaged through Joseph Colony, another Christian neighbourhood of Lahore, following blasphemy allegations against a Christian man.
The thousands of Christian protesters who clashed with police on Sunday attacked their cars with stones and sticks, as women wept and beat their heads and chests.
The protesters, some wearing crosses round their necks, later turned on the city's bus rapid transit system — a signature project of the ruling PML-N party of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Christians make up around two per cent of Pakistan's mainly Muslim population of 180 million. They have been targeted in attacks and riots in recent years, often over allegations of blasphemy.