The Islamabad police on Thursday formed a “Minority Protection Unit” (MPU) comprising 70 policemen for the “protection of minority places of worship and communities”.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), the police said, “Seventy jawans (policemen) have been posted in the ‘Minority Protection Unit’.”

The move comes a day after a violent mob of hundreds ransacked and torched at least five churches and attacked the residences of members of the Christian community following an alleged incident of blasphemy in the Jaranwala town of Faisalabad district.

A Christian cemetery and the office of the local assistant commissioner were also vandalised. The incident had led the Punjab government to call in Rangers while 3,000 police personnel from various police units, including the Elite Force, had been deployed as well.

The district administration has imposed section 144 for seven days, prohibiting all kinds of assembly, except for events organised by the government.

Meanwhile, the Punjab government has issued directions to form a high-level inquiry committee to investigate the incident, in line with orders issued by Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar.

In its statement today, the Islamabad police said that under the MPU, the district police officers will be “responsible for the protection of minority places of worship and communities in their areas”.

“Liaison with minority committees will be strengthened at each divisional level,” it added.

It further stated that the unit has been established as per the recommendations of the National Minorities Commission and will perform its duties under the supervision of the senior superintendent of police (operations).

“Policemen have also been selected from the recent recruitment for the Minority Protection Unit,” it said.

The incident sparked nationwide outrage from all political parties, civil society and the media.

Amnesty International, in its statement, has demanded that the “authorities must ensure [the] protection of minority Christian community”.

Rehab Mahamoor, interim regional researcher for South Asia at Amnesty International, said: “The Pakistani authorities must urgently ensure the protection of the minority Christian community in Jaranwala is [in] accordance to their needs and wishes.”

She further said that the authorities should also ensure that “those found responsible for the arson and attacks on Churches and homes are held accountable”.

“The vicious mob attacks are just the latest manifestation of the threat of vigilante violence which anyone can face in Pakistan after a blasphemy accusation,” she stated, adding that “Pakistani authorities need no more evidence to see how dangerous the blasphemy laws are”.

“The broad, vague and coercive nature of the blasphemy laws violate the human rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and freedom of expression. They have long been misused to target some of the most marginalized people in society,” the official said.

“By ignoring the longstanding call to repeal the blasphemy laws and instead strengthen them by attempting to increase the punishment under such laws, Pakistani authorities continue to create a permissive environment for human rights violations.”

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