Over 100 held after several churches, homes vandalised in Jaranwala

Caretaker minister says violence done under a “well-thought-out conspiracy”; interim PM Kakar calls for stern action

Web Desk

Furniture and other belongings of a church are set on fire, in Jaranwala, Pakistan August 16, 2023 in this screengrab obtained from a video by Reuters TV — Reuters
Furniture and other belongings of a church are set on fire, in Jaranwala, Pakistan August 16, 2023 in this screengrab obtained from a video by Reuters TV — Reuters

  • There was a plan to disturb peace by inciting public sentiments: Mir. 
  • Interim PM Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar calls LEAs to apprehend culprits.
  • PML-N's Shehbaz Sharif, PPP's Bilawal Bhutto condemn incident. 

More than 100 people have been arrested for their involvement in riots over alleged blasphemy in Faisalabad’s Jaranwala during which members of the Christian community were targeted, the Punjab interim government’s spokesperson confirmed.

In a statement, Punjab government spokesperson said that the provincial government has also ordered a high-level inquiry into the incident.

Earlier, interim Punjab Information Minister Amir Mir had said that “dozens of people who disturbed peace” in the area were detained.

In a statement, the minister said that the violence in Jaranwala was done under a “well-thought-out conspiracy”.

“There was a plan to disturb the peace by inciting public sentiments. After the desecration of the Holy Quran, the angry protesters reacted strongly,” Mir said, adding that the situation in Faisalabad is fully under control now.

The provincial info minister also said that the investigation into the tragic incident of the desecration of the holy book is underway at a fast pace, adding that anyone who tries to take the law into his hands would be arrested immediately.

The security of churches, he said, has been tightened and a large number of law enforcers have been deployed. More than 6,000 policemen and Rangers personnel are present in the affected areas, he added.

The minister also shared that in today's incidents, no one was injured nor was there any loss of life.

Mir went on to say that the Punjab chief secretary and Inspector General of Punjab Police have reached Jaranwala on the instructions of caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi.

Interim PM gutted by Jaranwala incident

Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Wednesday directed law enforcement agencies to apprehend culprits behind the vandalisation of churches in Jaranwala, Faisalabad over blasphemy allegations.

“I am gutted by the visuals coming out of Jaranwala, Faisalabad. Stern action would be taken against those who violate law and target minorities,” said Kakar in a post on X, the microblogging website formerly known as Twitter.

The interim premier also said that all law enforcement agencies have asked to “apprehend culprits and bring them to justice”.

“Rest assured that the government of Pakistan stands with our citizenry on equal basis,” he added.

Shehbaz, Bilawal condemn incident

Former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif also slammed the incident, saying: “What is happening in Jaranwala is sad and disturbing.”

“There is no place for violence in any religion. All religious places, Books and personages are sacred and deserve our highest level of respect. I urge the government to take action against the culprits,” the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president added.

The former premier also appealed to the “religious scholars from all schools of thought to come forward and condemn the reprehensible actions”.

“Such madness can't be allowed. Pakistan belongs to all religious minorities,” Shehbaz said on X.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also condemned the incident.

“Horrified to hear about the attack on Churches in Jaranwala, Faisalabad, violating the sanctity of places of worship is absolutely unacceptable. The administration must ensure the safety of the Christian community and their Churches,” Bilawal said on X.

Earlier today, a crowd vandalised several churches and setting scores of houses on fire after accusing the Christian community of its members over alleged blasphemy.

The incident took place in Jaranwala town of the industrial district of Faisalabad, police spokesman Naveed Ahmad said. A mob had attacked the community after two Christians were accused of blasphemy, he said.

Dozens of people were blocking a nearby highway.

The local administration has called in paramilitary troops to handle the violent crowd and bring the situation under control, according to a government order seen by Reuters.

A Christian leader, Akmal Bhatti, said the crowd had torched at least five churches and looted valuables from houses that had been abandoned by their owners after clerics made announcements in mosques inciting the mob.

Several social media posts showed some churches on fire as well as houses and belongings.