Factory torched in Jhelum over blasphemy allegation

Published November 22, 2015
JHELUM: Protesters torch the factory after one of its employees was accused of committing blasphemy.—AFP
JHELUM: Protesters torch the factory after one of its employees was accused of committing blasphemy.—AFP

GUJRAT: An enraged mob torched a place of worship of Ahmadi community in Jhelum on Saturday after setting on fire a factory late on Friday over an incident of “desecration of Holy Quran” in the factory, said to be owned by a man belonging to the community.

No casualty was reported.

Army troops have been deployed in Jhelum to assist the local administration and police in maintaining law and order. Soldiers are patrolling the city and have been deployed at the places of worship of Ahmadi community.

Earlier, the local administration and police failed to act immediately to provide security to the places of worship of the community in the wake of the torching of the factory. It was only after a place of worship was torched in Kala Gojran area that troops were deployed at other such places, particularly the community’s main place of worship in the city located in Nawan Mohallah.

The local people have claimed to have taken possession of the place of worship in Kala Gojran and converted it into a mosque. They have displayed a board inscribed with “Masjid Allah Wali” outside the place.

Police said the chipboard factory management used scrap of different kinds as fuel to burn fire in the boiler. On Friday evening a worker throwing scrap into the boiler spotted pages of Holy Quran in the scrap.

They said the worker told supervisor Qamar Ahmed Tahir, the head of internal security of the factory, about the presence of the sacred pages but he ordered him to continue throwing the scrap into the boiler. The labourer refused to do so and was thrashed by the supervisor.

Police alleged that Tahir threw a bag of papers carrying pages of Holy Quran into the boiler, prompting some labourers to go to the Kala Gojran police picket and file a complaint along with some burnt pages as evidence.

Soon, announcements were made from mosques in the area, asking people to gather outside the factory. An enraged mob forcibly entered the factory, set it on fire and also torched workers’ houses and the vehicles parked inside the factory.

But around 14 people living in the factory, including eight women and four children, fled to safety with the help of the administration.

Protesters blocked the Grand Trunk Road between Jhelum and Islamabad for about seven hours and dispersed only after Rangers personnel arrived there.

Police reportedly took four officials of the factory management into custody but later released three of them. This, locals say, intensified anger of the people and led to more violence.

However, police said they had arrested only Tahir, an Ahmadi by faith and a resident of Narowal district, and seized burnt material, including the copies of Holy Quran. Tahir was sent to jail on judicial remand late on Friday night.

Wajid Ali Raza, the Moharrar of Jhelum Saddar police station, told Dawn that a case had been lodged against Tahir under the blasphemy law on the complaint of Basharat Hussain, a driver of the factory.

Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan took notice of the violence in Jhelum and issued directives for army deployment in the area.

He said that no-one would be allowed to take law into his hands and directed police to remain impartial and properly investigate the case.

Jhelum District Police Officer Mujahid Akbar Khan could not be contacted for comments despite efforts.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2015

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