Police arrest over 100 suspected rioters; govt orders inquiry into incident

LAHORE:

Punjab caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi on Thursday said that the provincial government would “restore” all the churches and the homes of the Christian community which were attacked and torched during the mob violence which targeted the minority community a day earlier.

Addressing a meeting attended by religious leaders of the Christian community, Naqvi condemned the violence and said such actions are against the teachings of Islam and those of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

He added that all buildings damaged in the mob violence would be restored in “three to four days” to their original state and vowed to prevent any such “conspiracy” in the future.

Rangers cordon off area

Paramilitary troops have cordoned off a Christian settlement in Punjab where a mob vandalised and torched several churches and scores of houses after two men living there were accused of desecrating the Holy Quran, police and witnesses said on Thursday.

The attack took place in Jaranwala in the industrial district of Faisalabad on Wednesday, and continued for more than 10 hours without any intervention by police who were at the scene, residents and community leaders said. Police denied the accusation, saying security forces had prevented an even worse situation.

The rioters were demanding that the two accused men, who had fled their homes, be handed over to them.

Residents said thousands of people led by local clerics were carrying iron rods, sticks, knives and daggers during the rioting.

 

A provincial government statement said paramilitary troops were deployed to help police control the situation.

 

The troops have cordoned off the Christian colony, blocking all entry and exit points with barbed wire, according to a Reuters TV cameraman.

Hundreds of Christians took refuge in a nearby district, a community leader Akmal Bhatti told Reuters, adding that four pastors had returned to the churches, which were still smouldering.

He said that at least 50 houses were completely gutted.

“The miscreants dragged heavy goods from the houses and torched them in the streets and took away small valuables which they could carry easily,” Bhatti said.

 

Rights group Amnesty International called on Pakistani authorities to ensure the protection of minorities.

“The vicious mob attacks are just the latest manifestation of the threat of vigilante violence which anyone can face in Pakistan after a blasphemy accusation,” it said in a statement.

Police had arrested over 100 suspected rioters, the government statement said, adding that an inquiry has been ordered into the incident.

The United States was “deeply concerned that churches and homes were targeted,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said on Wednesday.

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