Pakistan comes down hard on Church attackers, 600 booked
Uneasy calm prevails in Jaranwala town of Punjab province as normality returns
By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Pakistani police on Thursday booked over 600 people on the charge of ransacking multiple churches and attacking properties of Christian minorities in Jaranwala town of northeastern Punjab province on Wednesday.
The police said they have lodged two separate cases against the accused, confirming that some 100 suspects have already been detained.
Violent mobs attacked churches and the homes of Christian residents after a Christian man was accused of desecrating Islam’s holy book, the Quran.
The attacks occurred after some Muslims living in the area claimed they had seen a local Christian and his friend tearing out pages from a Quran, throwing them on the ground, and writing insulting remarks on other pages.
A group demolished the man’s house and damaged churches. The homes of other Christians living in the area were also targeted.
Multiple churches were also set on fire in the central-eastern region, Bishop Majeed Able told Anadolu.
In the capital Islamabad, police said 70 policemen have been posted with the responsibility of protecting minority worship places.
- Uneasy calm
An uneasy calm prevailed in the Christian-dominated localities in Jaranwala town as most of the markets, shops, banks, and business centers remained open on Thursday.
All the educational institutions, however, remained closed in line with a government order.
Footage aired on local broadcaster GNN showed crowds of people shopping in markets and shops, while para-military force Rangers and police patrolling in the sensitive areas.
More than 6,000 security forces have been deployed to the town, mainly in Christian-dominated localities, to ensure public order.
- Condemnations pour in
Condemnations continued to pour in on the second day as the government and the religious parties expressed solidarity with the Christian community.
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar condemned the events and said that harsh action would be taken against those responsible for violating the law and targeting minorities.
“I am gutted by the visuals coming out of Jaranwala, Faisalabad. Stern action would be taken against those who violate the law and target minorities,” said Kakar in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Wednesday.
The Foreign Office said the law enforcement authorities "took swift action" as they have been instructed by Premier Kakar "to apprehend the culprits and bring them to justice."
"Individuals belonging to religious minorities are equal citizens of the state. As a multicultural and multifaith country, Pakistan is fully determined to protect and promote their constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms and to foster social harmony, tolerance, and mutual respect," said the Foreign Office in a statement.
Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Asim Munir also condemned the ransacking of churches by violent mobs, vowing that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.
“Jaranwala incident is extremely tragic and totally intolerable. There is no space for such incidents of intolerance and extreme behavior by any segment of the society against anyone, particularly against minorities,” Munir said while addressing participants of an internship program launched by the military's media wing on Thursday.
Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema Islam, the country's two mainstream religiopolitical parties, also condemned the events, demanding action against those involved in the ransacking of churches.
Meanwhile, at a joint press conference at Trinity Church in the port city of Karachi, Muslim, and Christian religious leaders denounced the violent events and called for "tolerance" and "unity" among all faiths.
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