Sargodha Police have identified and booked 44 people for their alleged involvement in mob violence against a Christian man accused of desecration of the Holy Quran the previous day in the city’s Mujahid Colony, it emerged on Sunday.

The police on Saturday rescued the man as well as two Christian families from the enraged mob that wanted to lynch him and barge into the homes of some other members of the minority community.

The incident had taken place after some residents of the colony fou­nd burned pages near an electric pole and the houses of the Christian family.

The first information report (FIR) of the incident, filed hours after the incident, which nominates another 350-450 unidentified armed men and women, invokes Section 324 (attempt to murder), 186 (obstructing public officials in discharging their duty), 353 (assaulting a public official who is discharging their duty), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive material with intent to destroy house), 440 (mischief by fire or explosive material with intent to cause death or hurt) 149 (Every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

The suspects have also been booked under Section 7 (punishment for acts of terrorism) and 11WW (lynching) of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997.

According to the FIR filed by Station House Officer (SHO) Shahid Iqbal, agitated locals had gathered in front of the victim’s house. Armed with sticks, stones and other weapons, they allegedly attempted to force their way into the house.

After calling for backup, police, the Sargodha Peace Committee and other residents tried to calm the mob — now numbering between 300 and 400 people — and resolve the situation through dialogue, but to no avail, the FIR states.

The mob also set a nearby shoe factory ablaze and tried to enter the victim’s house from adjoining roofs, the FIR alleges. The mob also reportedly destroyed electricity meters and outdoor AC units outside Maseeh’s home, which they subsequently set ablaze.

SHO Iqbal and other police personnel at the scene extricated the victim from the burning house. However, upon bringing him outside, they were surrounded by the mob, who hurled stones and beat them with sticks, severely injuring the Christian man.

The FIR also alleged that women were also part of the people who were inciting the crowd and encouraging violent behaviour.

Rizwan Younus Gill, a nephew of the suspected man, had told Dawn on Saturday that his uncle was in stable condition. He said that a couple of days ago a TLP activist had exchanged harsh words with his cousins, but the matter was resolved through negotiations. He denied allegations of desecration.

Meanwhile, District Police Officer (DPO) Assad Ejaz Malhi said that head constable Aneesur Rehman played the role of a hero and stood in front of the mobsters to rescue the Christian families. He said additional police units were stationed throughout the city to ensure the safety of the Christian community.

In a post on X, the Punjab Police said that on the orders of Inspector General of Police Dr Usman Anwar, security at churches across the province had been tightened. “Diligent police officers are on duty for the security of the Christian places of worship,” the statement read.

Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Mohammad Faisal Kamran visited churches in Lahore and personally inspected security arrangements. The DIG, who is in charge of operations, “expressed satisfaction over the security of the churchgoers”, said a post from his office on X.

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