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`Rioters were led by masked men from Jhang`

August 03, 2009

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Christians chant slogans during a rally to condemn the attacks on Christians by Sunni Muslims, in Lahore. - AP Photo

ISLAMABAD The government on Sunday asked Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti to work in coordination with the government of Punjab to unmask the elements behind the Gojra violence, well-placed sources told Dawn.

They said the government had received information that a group of armed 'miscreants', with masked faces had come from Jhang and led the violence against Christians on the pretext of desecration of the Holy Quran.

The sources said a mob went on rampage after some youths had delivered provocative speeches and set on fire some houses and places of worship. 'The minority minister has been asked to work closely with the provincial government and expose the people responsible for the tragic incident.'

They said the government believed that the incident had been planned to trigger riots between Christians and Muslims and the government was not ruling out involvement of an external hand.

President Asif Ali Zardari has also asked Mr Bhatti to proceed to Gojra and stay there till the situation calms down and affected people return to their homes.

President's spokesman Farhatullah Babar said the president had taken a serious notice of the Gojra incident and he was concerned about the violence as well as the wrong signals it had sent about the country and its people to the international community.

Recently in Kasur, houses of Christians had been torched and the latest incident has forced the government to handle the situation with firmness.

The president said in a statement that under no circumstances could anyone be allowed to take law into his hand to settle real or perceived grievances.

'It is the responsibility of the state to protect citizens under attack from a handful of vengeful and armed groups in the name of religion,' he said.

President Zardari appealed to all sections of society to make concerted and combined efforts to repair the social fabric that has often been shredded by some individuals and some organised groups behind the façade of religious sensitivities.