LAHORE: Punjab government on Saturday withdrew its decision to form a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe multiple cases pertaining to the ransacking of churches in Faisalabad’s Jaranwala town following an alleged incident of blasphemy on August 16.
According to a government handout on Saturday, Punjab caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi presided over an emergency meeting of the cabinet at his office on the on Friday, where the chief secretary submitted the inquiry report into the Jaranwala incident.
“The Punjab cabinet took back its decision to constitute a JIT after the submission of an inquiry report of the Jaranwala tragedy incident,” reads the handout.
As per the handout, Mr Naqvi said the cabinet was satisfied with the inquiry report. “The suggestions that came out in the investigation have already been implemented,” he added.
Info minister clueless about the JIT which is not being formed
He said the orders of forming a JIT for further investigation into the incident had been withdrawn.
On August 24, Punjab government had notified the formation of 10 JITs to investigate cases registered in connection with the Jaranwala issue at various police stations in Faisalabad.
All the notifications stated that the JITs were being formed “in exercise of powers conferred under Section 19(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997”.
The government had constituted 10 JITs after a violent mobs ransacked and torched nearly two dozen churches, attacked the residences of members of the Christian community and the office of the assistant commissioner in Jaranwala on August 16.
As per Faisalabad’s district administration estimates at least 22 churches were 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 desecrated pages of the Holy Quran were found near a house at Cinema Chowk in Jaranwala, where two Christian brothers resided.
When contacted, caretaker Information minister Amir Mir told Dawn that the cabinet had withdrawn its order about formation of a JIT to investigate the Jaranwala incident.
However, he could not reply to the query that orders about which JIT, out of the 10 has been withdrawn. The minister also failed to answer when asked which institution or committee had conducted the inquiry that was presented before the cabinet.
On September 27, the Lahore High Court had issued a stern warning to the provincial government regarding the perceived lack of seriousness in forming a judicial commission to investigate the Jaranwala incident.
During the proceedings, Justice Asim Hafeez expressed his displeasure at the non-appearance of the chief secretary. He subsequently summoned the chief secretary to appear in person on October 2.
The court was hearing a plea filed by the Christian community, which demanded the establishment of a judicial inquiry committee to impartially investigate the Jaranwala incident.
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2023