SC rejects police report on Jaranwala attacks

Published February 14, 2024
View of a burnt church on the outskirts of Faisalabad on August 16, 2023 following an attack by a mob. — AFP/File
View of a burnt church on the outskirts of Faisalabad on August 16, 2023 following an attack by a mob. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday regretted that state functionaries become intimidated by troublemakers who take law in their hands only to advance their agenda by provoking people to launch attacks against properties of members of religious minorities, thereby advance agenda of perpetrators.

Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, a three-member bench took up the hearing of the Aug 16, 2023, tragic Jaranwala incident in which a number of churches and over a dozen homes belonging to the Christian community were ransacked and damaged.

“To stem barbaric, inhuman and vicious attacks, the state must act promptly and the courts seized with cases of attacks and vandalising of properties of different faiths must attend to and conclude the same on priority basis for quick deterrence to forestall such incidents in future, the SC order said.

The CJP rejected the police report submitted by Additional Advocate General of Punjab on the Jaranwala tragedy, noting that no relevant information has been provided in it such as registration of FIRs, number of persons nominated, status of those cases, names of relevant courts where cases were pending and the progress made so far.

The manner in which the investigation has been conducted and the apparent hesitation shown by law-enforcement agencies in identifying the culprits would only bring disrepute to police force, he remarked.

CJP seeks fresh investigation report within two weeks

“It appears the investigation agencies were not interested in bringing to book the culprits rather than becoming intimidated at the hands of the offenders,” the SC order stated, adding that if such condition was allowed to continue, then those who paid out by the state would make the country unliveable.

During the hearing, SP (Investigations) conceded that those involved in the attacks in the Jaranwala incident had affiliation with the TLP.

The court also issued strict caution to the provincial police and ordered them to conduct a thorough investigation afresh to prosecute with vigour it deserves or face suspension in failing to perform duties. The police were required to furnish a thorough report within two weeks by conducting the forensic determination of the mobile phones for identifying perpetrators, the SC order said.

All citizens have equal standing and rights and thus entitled to protection of practicing their religion, the SC order said, also mentioning the tendency where troublemakers for their ulterior motives provoke people to launch attacks on the religious places of non-Muslims.

It ordered the Punjab government to submit a report highlighting reconstruction work if carried out to the damaged properties and compensation paid so far.

The court also noted that Gurdwaras of the Sikh community and temples of Hindus and other religious places of worship under the control of the Evacuee Trust Properties Board (ETPB) were not being preserved properly.

It ordered the ETPB to put up a complete list of properties on its website that should be accessible to all. The complete information should be bifurcated showing places where worship was being performed or places having historical importance.

The information should contain the names of the places along with photos, complete location with longitude and latitude, total area of the land and where the place is situated as mandated by Section 4(2)(a) of the ETPB laws which required complete and authentic record of such sites. In this regard all revenue authorities and other departments in the country will assist the ETPB and, in case if the subject property was under litigation, the same be mentioned in the report. This exercise should be completed not tater than six weeks, the SC order said.

The SC ordered the Centre and Pemra to submit a report highlighting guidelines or instructions issued to the electronic media to broadcast public service message, particularly to discourage violence, sectarian, extremism, hatred in society and how the same was implemented.

The court also issued notices to the ministry of religious affairs, the Attorney General for Pakistan and top law officers of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to come up with a set of suggestions in this regard.

Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2024

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