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163 suspects held in Badami Bagh case

March 11, 2013

LAHORE, March 10: Police raids to arrest the Badami Bagh arsonists continued on Sunday with arrest of over 163 suspects. Raids were on till our going into the press at 12 night.

The arrests of suspected arsonists, majority of them were said to be Pathans and Afghans, were initiated late on Saturday after the provincial chief executive ordered aggressive and indiscriminate action against the suspects who burned 170 houses in Joseph Colony.

A case of arson attack was registered under Sections 324, 332, 427, 436, 148 and 149 of the Pakistan Penal Code and 7-Anti-Terrorism Act on behalf of the state against 83 nominated and thousands of unidentified people.

A senior police investigator told Dawn that 15 police teams were conducting raids across the city to hunt down suspects.

He said around 40 arrested suspects were either nominated or had been identified with the help of video footage, adding raids would continue to arrest others.

The investigator said majority of arrested people were local traders or their workers.

ILL-POLICE PLANNING: The attack on the Christian community’s residential locality was the result of city police managers’ failure to anticipate the backlash of alleged blasphemy act.

Sources privy to the development told Dawn that Badami Bagh police forced the Christians to evacuate the colony considering the sensitivity of the situation and also informed their senior officials about the matter.

They said it was a serious security lapse on part of outgoing SSP (Operations) Sohail Akhtar Sokhaira and City SP (Operations) Multan Khan who did not deploy sufficient policemen to guard the colony.

Sources said some policemen were first deployed on March 8 on the occasion when a mob lodged a protest outside the colony and demanded handing over of the blasphemy accused to them.

On March 9, around 100 policemen took positions, but lack of police command led to the arson attack by thousands of attackers.

Sources said it had yet to be ascertained as to who ordered the evacuation of Christians. Sources said the matter was also conveyed to Capital City Police Officer Amjad Javed Saleemi.

Mr Saleemi, being Sialkot DPO, had earlier faced suspension in connection with the killing of three judges at Sialkot Jail shooting in 2002. The terror attack on Sri Lankan cricket team at Liberty Roundabout in 2009 also took place when Mr Saleemi was Lahore DIG (Operations).

In the first incident, Mr Saleemi was one of the principal accused in a case lodged by a serving judge. In the second incident, a judicial inquiry by a Lahore High Court judge held him responsible for inefficiency and poor security planning. The judge also recommended to the government to not give him any field posting.

A senior police officer said the incidents like Badami Bagh usually happened due to lack of coordination and poor planning. He said the only SOP in sensitive situations was to guard the place with extra-ordinary police deployment.

JOSEPH COLONY SITUATION: The situation remained tense in Joseph Colony on Sunday. Majority of affected families returned to the locality only to find their houses burnt and belongings looted.

At least 15 police reserves (300 policemen) were deployed in and around the colony of 175 houses and 4,000 population.

“We are cleaning our burnt houses and streets on our own as the government has yet to send corporation staff for assistance,” said Raja Asif, a victim of violence.

“We are getting meals and makeshift tents from the government for accommodation,” said Raja Asif, a local resident.

He said the community had demanded that the government build their houses and give Rs500,000 to each family as per the chief minister’s decision.

He said delegations of Christians from Karachi, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, and Sheikhupura had arrived in the colony to help the victims.

Asif said majority of male and female Christians were either government servants or daily wage earners.

He said though the government started work on new constructions, but the process was too slow. He appealed to the government for speedy rehabilitation and strict action against saboteurs.