SARGODHA/LAHORE: Urban Area police of Sargodha arrested 26 people for mob violence and attempt to lynch a Christian man the other day while registered a case against 44 nominated and 300/400 unidentified suspects.

The case was registered on behalf of the state under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997 and sections of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

However, the police also registered a blasphemy case against the Christian man, a resident of Mujahid Colony, who was critically injured by the mob but survived the lynching attempt. He was booked on the report of an activist of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, identified as Muhammad Jahangir. About the incident, a resident of the locality, on condition of anonymity, told Dawn that some pages of the Holy Quran were found burnt on the cover of a water pump adjacent to the Christian man’s residence but no one saw him setting them on fire. He described the man’s family as humble and not known for such bad activities.

On Saturday, the Christian man faced violence from a mob of religious people who wanted to lynch him. The mob violence case, registered by Station House Officer (SHO) Shahid Iqbal, states that locals, armed with sticks, stones and weapons, gathered in front of the man’s house and attempted to break into it.

Despite efforts by the police, the Sargodha Peace Committee and other residents to calm the mob and resolve the situation through a dialogue, the mob set a shoe unit of the man’s son ablaze and tried to enter his house from the adjoining rooftops. The mob destroyed electricity meters and outdoor AC units outside man’s home and set them ablaze. SHO Iqbal and other police personnel at the scene rescued the man from the burning house. However, when they brought him out, the mob surrounded them and hurled stones at them and beat them with sticks, severely injuring the man.

Violence victim also booked in blasphemy case registered on TLP activist’s allegations

The FIR also alleges that women were also a part of the crowd, inciting violence. The case was registered under several sections of the ATA and PPC, including attempt to murder, obstructing public officials in discharging their duty, assaulting a public official and mischief by fire or explosive material with intent to destroy a house or cause death or hurt.

Following the incident, Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Dr Usman Anwar and Home Secretary Noorul Amin Mengal visited Sargodha and inspected the crime scene. They appreciated the timely action of police and the members of the peace committee for maintaining peace and security. In response to the incident, Provincial Minister for Minority Affairs Ramesh Singh Arora and took notice of the alleged blasphemy and contacted the Punjab home secretary.

Mr Arora appealed to the people of Sargodha not to take the law into their hands and assured them that the law enforcement agencies were holding an investigation into the incident. He emphasized that insult to any religion could not be allowed and everyone had aduty to establish a peaceful society.

Under the supervision of Sargodha District Police Officer Dr Asad Ijaz Malhi, the security of churches in the entire district was tightened and more than 1,000 security personnel were deployed at the churches on Sunday.

A flag march was held in Sargodha city led by SP Headquarters Ziaullah for maintenance of law and order and the implementation of Section 144. The march passed through Club Chowk, Khayam Chowk, Noori Gate, Block 12 Chowk, Basti Chishtian, Ali Park, Gulwala, Kot Farid, Mujahid Colony, Zafar Colony, Satellite Town and other roads and ended at the same place where it had started. The DSP Traffic, DSP Headquarters, Muhafiz Squad and Elite Force participated in the march. Speaking to the media, SP Headquarters Ziaullah said that after the tragic incident of Mujahid Colony, Section 144 had been imposed in the city for seven days. Protests and sit-ins are banned.

“The purpose of the flag march is to instill a sense of security among the people and send a clear message to the miscreants that security in Sargodha was on high alert and that the police were ready to deal with any emergency,” he said. The officer said all kinds of inflammatory speeches, loudspeakers, wall-chalking and publication and distribution of inflammatory pamphlets were completely banned.

Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee Pakistan Chairman/Imam Badshahhi Masjid Maulana Syed Muhammad Abdul Khabeer Azad along with scholars of all schools of thought and Christian leaders held a press conference at the Sargodha commissioner’s office. Mr Azad said the protection of Pakistan was the common responsibility of the whole nation. “Honouring and protecting all divine books is our responsibility and a part of our faith. Islam orders the protection of the rights of the minorities and the Constitution of Pakistan is the guarantor of the rights of all minorities. No one can be allowed to set up his own court in the country.”

He said anti-national forces wanted to harm national unity by creating unrest in Pakistan through religious riots and chaos. Respect for humanity, a violence-free society, religious harmony and the promotion of the message of Pakistan were the responsibilities of all, he said and added that timely notice of the tragedy of Mujahid Colony by Prime Minister Mian Shehbaz Sharif and Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz Sharif was commendable.

Archbishop Sabatin Shane said love for the country was a part of faith the Christians wanted to make the country chaos-free.

“In Pakistan, inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony is the most important need of the hour,” he added. Addressing the press conference, other speakers called for making the country prosperous, peaceful and secure.

Commissioner Sargodha Division Muhammad Ajmal Bhatti, Regional Police Officer Shariq Kamal Siddiqui, Deputy Commissioner retired Captain Aurangzeb Haider Khan and DPO Dr Asad Ijaz Malhi besides Ulema, Christian leaders and other officers of police and administration were present.

Later, Maulana Syed Muhammad Abdul Khabeer Azad stressed love and peace while presiding over the peace committee meeting.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2024

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