Punjab caretaker Chief Minister Moshin Naqvi on Thursday said that “both main accused” in yesterday’s Jaranwala rampage — when a mob torched several churches, ransacked Christian homes and vandalised a graveyard — were now in the custody of the Counter Terrorism Department.
On Wednesday, a violent mob of hundreds had ransacked and torched several churches while also attacking the residences of members of the Christian community.
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.
As per police and local sources, the violence erupted after some locals alleged that several desecrated pages of the Holy Quran had been found near a house at Cinema Chowk in Jaranwala, where two Christian brothers resided.
The Punjab government had ordered the formation of a high-level inquiry committee to investigate the incident, in line with directives issued by Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq.
Separately, in a statement issued late on Wednesday night, Punjab police said it had made over 100 arrests while the Jaranwala police booked over 600 people in two terror cases.
Taking to X (formerly Twitter) today, Naqvi said: “Major breakthrough in the Jaranwala Incident — both main accused now in CTD custody.”
He appreciated the provincial chief secretary and police chief for their “relentless efforts” and thanked the interim premier for “driving the swift arrest process”.
In a meeting with religious leaders earlier today, Naqvi also announced that the Punjab government would restore all the churches and homes ransacked in the incident and asserted that such incidents were anti-Islam and against the teachings of the Holy Prophet.
“Whatever damages took place, as a government, Muslims and humans, we will restore them.”
He claimed the mob-led attack was a “planned conspiracy” to “light a fire in the country and sabotage its peace”.
“For the future, we should sit with our minorities and chalk out a plan to prevent such incidents,” he stressed, urging religious leaders to spread the message of the Holy Quran among the people.
The caretaker CM added that all Pakistanis were one and promised to prevent any such “conspiracy” in the future. “There is no space for this in our country.”
Naqvi also appreciated the provincial chief secretary and police chief for effectively controlling the situation in Jaranwala yesterday and preventing any loss of life.
‘We are ashamed’
In a press conference in Lahore earlier in the evening, Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) Chairman Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi apologised for the Jaranwala violence and reaffirmed the commitment to protect “our Christian brothers”.
“We are ashamed,” he said. “We failed to fulfil our responsibility as an elder brother … we seek forgiveness.”
A visibly emotional Ashrafi continued, “Yesterday, I saw a video in which young girls were hiding in the fields, they spent the entire night there […] these are the same girls who our Holy Prophet (PBUH) called blessings.”
“I want to ask today, who are these people? Where do they come from? What religion do they follow? I swear these are not the teaching of Islam or the prophet that you cause damage to anyone,” he asserted.
The scholar further stated that there were “no words” to express the shame he was feeling and proceeded to apologise to Archbishop Sebastian Shaw, who was sitting next to him.
Ashrafi demanded that the trial of the perpetrators should be held in the torched churches, adding that “the nation wants these people to be punished”.
“A week back, we were all gathered here to condemn the desecration of the Holy Quran … today they burnt this Bible, they burnt this Zabur, they burnt this Torah … these books are as sacred to me as the Holy Quran is,” he said, adding that burning a church was equivalent to torching a mosque.
Ashrafi further demanded that the government should immediately restore the churches and Christian homes that were ransacked a day earlier and hoped that the interim prime minister would fulfil these demands.
“The premier should also himself visit these places so that we can give a message to the world that we, Muslims, have nothing to do with this violence,” he added.
More than 20 churches torched, says Archbishop Shaw
Meanwhile, Archbishop Shaw, while recalling events leading to the violence, said that all the Christians in Jaranwala had on August 14 celebrated Independence Day with the rest of the country.
He said the problem began at 6am yesterday when someone alleged that a copy of the Holy Quran was burnt in the area. “I believe it was done under some planning because all Christians in Pakistan are given the education that we live among 95 per cent Muslims.
“No Christian can ever think of disrespecting the Holy Quran, let alone burn it,” he highlighted, adding that elements involved in the incident had “a sole purpose of creating unrest”.
All the Christians, the archbishop continued, condemned the desecration of the Holy Quran but at the same time urged Muslims to exercise restraint and patience.
Talking about the attack on Christian homes and churches, he demanded that the violence should be probed.
“Announcements were made through a mosque after which a crowd converged and they attacked the community,” he stated, adding that more than 20 churches were torched, holy books were burnt and graves were destroyed.
This incident is an attack on Pakistan’s integrity, Archbishop Shaw said and urged the government to probe the attack and punish those involved “indiscriminately”.
Perpetrators of ‘extremely tragic’ Jaranwala violence will be brought to justice: COAS
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir also condemned the Jaranwala violence, describing it as “extremely tragic and totally intolerable”.
According to a press release issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the army chief made these remarks while addressing the participants of the ISPR Internship Program in Rawalpindi.
“Jaranwala incident is extremely tragic and totally intolerable,” he is quoted as saying. “There is no space for such incidents of intolerance and extreme behavior by any segment of the society against anyone — particularly against minorities.”
“All citizens of Pakistan are equal amongst each other irrespective of religion, gender, cast or creed,” COAS Munir said.
“No one will be allowed to take law in own hands and those culpable of committing such crimes will be brought before the court of justice.”
NCHR inquiry team visits Jaranwala
Meanwhile, an inquiry team of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) visited Jaranwala today.
The body said in a press release that the probe revealed that a total of 17 churches were gutted in the incidents, which included both registered and unregistered ones. “Some 80 homes have been vandalised and damaged of which 30 to 40 homes have been completely burnt,” it said.
The NCHR delegation held meetings with Faisalabad Commissioner Silwat Saeed and officers of the district administration. The team also met families of the affected community and witnessed the “devastation wrought by the rioters the day before”.
“The commission was informed that FIRs under ATA and sec 324 and 353 PPC have been registered against 128 persons. The accused are under arrest and will be presented for remand tomorrow,” the press release stated.
Meanwhile, Section 144 was imposed in the area to maintain calm while 3,500 policemen and 180 Rangers personnel were deployed for safety purposes.
“Faisalabad is a hotbed for religious violence. Many incidents of allegations of blasphemy and desecration of churches have already been reported in this area. The region is a tinderbox and the government must look to address interfaith harmony and cultivate tolerance,” the press release quoted the NCHR Chairperson Rabiya Javeri Agha as saying.
She added that the situation was still tense in the area and stressed that special measures needed to be taken to prevent any hostile situation in the future.
Both first information reports (FIRs), copies of which are available with Dawn.com, were filed by a sub-inspector of the Jaranwala City police station and state the time of reporting as 10am on Wednesday (August 16).
One of the criminal complaints states that a mob of 500-600, led by a group of people, “attacked the Christian community, ransacked people’s homes after entering them and torched Christians’ homes and the church building”.
It identified eight people as leading the mob, one of whom is affiliated with the Jamaat Ahl-e-Sunnat and another with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP).
The FIR invoked sections 7-1(d), 7-1(g), 7-1(h) and 7-1(i) — all pertaining to “punishment for acts of terrorism” — of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.
It also invoked sections 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups, etc), 186, (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 324 (attempted murder), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc) and 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
The invoked sections also include 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the PPC.
The FIR further invokes sections 5 (inspections) and 6 (punishment) of the Punjab Sound Systems (Regulation) Act 2015 — the latter imposing punishment on those who violate sections pertaining to “regulation of sound system” and “prohibition of on the use of sound system”.
According to the FIR, at around 9:20am, a man used the loudspeakers of Mehtab Mosque — located near the Cinema Chowk — to urge people to “gather and protest” against alleged desecration of the Holy Quran.
It stated that the mob gathered outside Mehtab Mosque “armed with batons, road carts, petrol bottles and started chanting slogans”. It added that the people named above incited the mob, who was urged to stop, but it “resisted the police party” and entered the Christian community’s homes and ransacked them.
The FIR goes on to state that the mob “threw out people’s belongings from their homes and started setting them on fire”. The suspects also “entered a Catholic church, destroyed the things there, and damaged and torched its building”, it added.
The complaint further stated that subsequently, a police contingent arrived there from Faisalabad headquarters and launched tear gas, “forcing the crowd to disperse”.
Naming another 29 suspects, the FIR said they were “brought under control” after tear gas was used.
It also stated that Rurala Road Station House Officer Ghulam Rasool and Constable Mohammad Waqas were injured “as a result of the suspects’ fatal attack”. They were taken to a nearby hospital immediately for medical aid, the FIR added.
The second FIR was registered under Sections 324 (attempted murder), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 452 (trespassing with an intent to hurt), 436 (mischief by fire or an explosive substance with the intent to destroy a house), 427 (causing damage), 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class), 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 153-A (promoting enmity), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) of the PPC.
Sections of the Punjab Sound Systems Regulation Act, 2015 and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act were also invoked in the FIR.
The cop said that he and other officials were at Fawara Chowk at 9:30am when they heard an announcement over the loudspeaker of a mosque regarding an incident of blasphemy and inciting the people to violence. He said that soon the message spread and citizens started gathering in small groups throughout the city. The official said that in anticipation of a law and order situation, he called for backup.
During this time, between 500-600 people — armed with sticks, canes and rods — gathered in front of the mosque and started shouting slogans. He said that the mob was incited to attack the homes and churches of the Christian community. The official said that the police party tried to stop the mob but they resisted and started forcefully entering homes of the Christian community and setting churches ablaze.
He said that during this time, backup arrived and used tear gas to disperse the violent mob while 29 of them were taken into custody — of which 12 have been named in the FIR.
Separately, the Faisalabad deputy commissioner issued an order — dated yesterday — declaring a “local holiday” in the Jaranwala tehsil today (Thursday) due to the “law and order exigency” in the area.
“All government department[s] and private institutions will remain closed,” the order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, added.
Additional input from Iftikhar Shirazi and Irfan Sadozai