Punjab Inspector General (IG) Dr Usman Anwar on Monday said the police have unearthed a “network of hostile intelligence agencies” that were allegedly involved in the recent incidents of blasphemy across the country.
On August 16, a violent mob of hundreds ransacked and torched nearly two dozen churches and attacked the residences of members of the Christian community and the office of the local assistant commissioner in Jaranwala.
According to estimates compiled by Faisalabad’s district administration, at least 22 churches ransacked by mobs suffered damages to the tune of Rs29.1 million whereas 91 houses which bore the brunt of violence suffered losses to the tune of Rs38.5m.
As per police and local sources, the violence erupted after some locals alleged that several desecrated pages of the Holy Quran were found near a house at Cinema Chowk in Jaranwala, where two Christian brothers resided.
Addressing a press conference in Lahore today, the Punjab police chief said over 300 people were interrogated during the probe while 180 were arrested on the basis of evidence.
He asserted that no innocent person would be implicated for the sake of “number scoring”, adding that the perpetrators of the recent incidents of blasphemy in Sargodha and Faisalabad had also been nabbed.
According to Anwar, a “network of hostile intelligence agencies” was discovered to be behind these recent incidents of blasphemy.
He said the aforementioned events were a “conspiracy” to “divert attention” from the communal clashes in India’s Manipur state.
But unlike the Indian state’s response, Anwar continued, Pakistani officials, civil society and scholars helped and supported Christian victims and spoke up against the injustice.
“After the Jaranwala violence, two more incidents of blasphemy were reported in Punjab,” he revealed. “The culprits were arrested via modern technological methods.”
“Peace committees and Muslims acted along [with] the law enforcement and intelligence agencies of this country and we have unearthed a network of hostile intelligence agencies.
“These acts were done to deviate attention from this,” he said pointing to a printout of a European Union motion to discuss the Manipur violence.
Anwar said it would have been very easy for the Punjab police to bring the culprits to light and declare the case closed.
“Because we had a guess that the background is this (Manipur), we tried to connect the links… another incident happened after a few days and we realised that there was a conspiracy to set the whole country on fire.”
He recalled that an investigation began soon after the “sequence of incidents” to trace the culprits and the 2,500-strong Punjab police force successfully arrested the suspects.
“When the regional police officer completed the cyber evaluation, it was found that the suspects had links with a hostile intelligence agency,” the police chief said, adding that attempts were made to “pit Muslims here against Christians”.
The IGP reassured that such incidents would not reoccur as “we have broken the network.”
“We will not let Pakistan become the scapegoat for the great injustice that was done across the border,” he added.