A view of the charred Catholic Church in Christian Colony where the violence started on Wednesday.—M. Arif / White Star
A view of the charred Catholic Church in Christian Colony where the violence started on Wednesday.—M. Arif / White Star

TOBA TEK SINGH/LAHORE: Punjab police on Thursday arrested at least 140 alleged miscreants, including two prime suspects, and registered five cases a day after violence targeting the Christian community in Jaranwala tehsil of Faisalabad left over 20 churches and over a dozen homes in ruins.

The FIRs registered with the Jaranwala City police included Section 295 (desecration of a worship place) and Section 295-A (hurting religious feelings) of the Pakistan Penal Code. Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act had also been inserted in the FIRs besides other sections related to attacking, burning and damaging properties of the Christian community.

Those arrested by the police included main suspect Muhammad Yasin, identified through a video in which he was seen making an announcement on loudspeakers of mosques to incite Muslims against the religious minority, urging the former to come out of their homes to take part in riots. He reportedly made announcements from five mosques.

The Punjab Counter Terrorism Department claim­­ed to have arrested two prime suspects, which was also confirmed by Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi in a statement on the social media platform ‘X’, formerly known as Twitter.

Two main suspects detained; five cases registered against miscreants on charges of terrorism, blasphemy

The caretaker CM tweeted that CTD had made a breakthrough and arrested two prime suspects involved in the attacks. He appreciated the efforts of the Punjab chief secretary and inspector general of police, saying both of them had played a key role in ensuring the arrests of the key suspects.

The government offices and educational institutions, however, remained closed on Thursday after the Faisalabad deputy commissioner declared a public holiday in Jaranwala tehsil. All bazaars and markets also remained shut. According to Dawn.com, Section 144 was imposed in the area to maintain calm while 3,500 policemen and 180 Rangers personnel were deployed for safety purposes.

‘Planned conspiracy to sabotage peace’

Meanwhile, addressing a high-level meeting of clerics of various sects and religions, Mr Naqvi declared the violent attacks on churches and homes of the Christians a “planned conspiracy to sabotage peace in the country”.

He vowed to restore all the churches and homes of the Christians destroyed by the mob within the next three to four days. The caretaker CM condemned the violent attacks on the worship places of the minorities, saying such actions were contrary to Islam and the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). He announced chalking out a plan to prevent such incidents in the future by enhancing coordination with the representatives of the minorities.

List of ransacked churches

Meanwhile, the Christian community’s social media activists issued a list of 20 churches, which were burnt, along with copies of the Bible, by the mob. Sources said there were a number of small churches which were also set on fire or damaged by the mobs.

The list of partially or completely burnt churches in Jaranwala town and adjoining villages included the Church of Pastor Saleem Arif and Pastor Rizwan in Essa Nagri; Michael Kingdom Church of Pastor Adnan; Church of Major Mashooq; Catholic Church of Nasir Colony; Church of Pastor Israel Maharwala; Church of Shehrunwala locality; Church of God, Kammoana; Catholic Church of Christian Colony; Capt Sajid’s Salvation Army Church; FGA Church Farooq Park; Church of Pastor Shahzad in Yasir Town; Kalori Church of Noora Colony; Kalori Church of Chak 240-GB; Salvation Army Church of Major Amjad; Catholic Church of Essa Nagri; Pak Khushkhabri Church of Noora Colony; Amazing Race Church of Shahrwan; and BM Church of Pastor Naveed Mukhtar in Chak 120-GB, Christian Basti.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2023

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