LAHORE: Ignoring the pressure mounted by some religious sections, the Lahore police on Friday lodged the First Information Report (FIR) against dozens of miscreants who harassed a woman wearing a shirt with Arabic-script print a couple of days back in Ichhra Bazaar here.

The suspects turning into a charged mob had accused the woman of “blasphemy” as they confused the Arabic alphabet and words with the Quranic verses, endangering her life, as was evident from some mobile phone footage of the incident, which was also highlighted by international media, bringing disgrace to the country.

However, timely action by the police was also lauded in and outside Pakistan when the video clips showed the heroic role of a woman police officer, Gulberg circle ASP Syeda Sheharbano Naqvi, who confronted the mob and rescued the woman.

An official says the police high-ups were under immense pressure not to register an FIR against the suspects and avoid possible confrontation with some religious sections, notorious for resorting to violent agitation in the past. However, some senior government officers were of the view that letting the miscreants off the hook would not only reflect poorly on the law enforcement agencies, but also embolden the ‘extremists’ to repeat such acts in future.

He says the Punjab government also lent full support to the police in initiating action against the miscreants, showing zero tolerance towards such incidents.

‘Policemen who kept charged mob engaged for an hour also deserve recognition’

Finally, a consensus emerged that blasphemy has been a sensitive issue and such incidents have resulted in brutal lynchings in the past in Punjab, like the atrocities committed in Sialkot and Jaranwala.

After discussing the matter in some important meetings, the police high-ups ordered initiation of criminal proceedings against the miscreants with the prime objective of ensuring the writ of law.

The official source says that the Ichhra police lodged an FIR against dozens of suspects, including those who raised religious slogans to ‘add fuel to the fire’, threatening the life of the woman.

The police sealed the FIR, he says, adding that the case has been referred to the investigation wing of Lahore police for taking further action as per the law.

The source says that though ASP Naqvi was duly appreciated for showing courage and risking her own life to save the woman, the police high-ups ignored the role of some other officers who played an important part by engaging the charged mob for an hour, making the rescue operation successful.

In this regard he highlighted the role of Ichhra SHO Mohammad Bilal Aarbi and Model Town SP Operations Irtaza Komail, saying they were the first to reach the spot and facilitated the woman’s rescue when the mob was advancing towards her, chanting religious slogans.

Following the emergency call, he says, patrolling officer ASI Sajid had rushed to the scene where the mob had besieged a shop wherein the woman had taken shelter fearing lynching.

Meanwhile, the SHO Bilal also reached there at around 1:30pm and immediately put the police personnel on high alert.

He says the SHO spotted a man carrying a loaded weapon and trying to reach the woman. However, the SHO and his team immediately overpowered the suspect, disarmed him and then unloaded the weapon.

The official says that the police personnel led by the SHO formed a multi-layered shield between the mob and the woman as was shown in some mobile phone footage of the incident.

Bilal then informed the SP concerned of the situation, who also reached the spot along with additional force, the official says.

At a point, the situation turned very alarming when the mob hurled serious life threats at the SHO and his force for not handing the woman over to them, he says.

Meanwhile, ASP Naqvi reached there and daringly rescued the woman from the mob, he says.

He says the Model Town SP had also briefed the high-ups about the role of the police officials, including the SHO, the ASI and others in some formal meetings.

However, the police authorities ignored the role of the lower-ranked officials and personnel as none of them was appreciated officially by the department so far, the source lamented.

Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2024

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