- Violence Erupts in Pakistani City Over Blasphemy Claims
- Christian Community Under Attack After Quran Desecration Rumors
- Escalating Tensions and Arrests Follow Arson and Vandalism in Jaranwala
More than a hundred people have been arrested in an east Pakistani city following the arson and vandalism of churches and residences by thousands of Muslims.
Claims that two Christian men had torn pages from a Quran copy prompted violence in Jaranwala.
The historic Salvation Army Church was still ablaze one day after the disturbance, on Thursday.
As the situation in the city remains volatile, barbed wire has been used to encircle ruins.
Seven days of restrictions have been placed on public gatherings in the Faisalabad district, which includes Jaranwala.
In Pakistan, blasphemy is punishable by death, so the two men accused of damaging the Quran, the sacred book of Islam, have been arrested and are being investigated for blasphemy.
Although some have been sentenced to death, executions have never occurred. However, even a single accusation of blasphemy can result in widespread rioting and even lynchings and murders.
A local official reported that authorities received inquiries about protests and fires early on Wednesday morning after rumors of the desecration of the Quran spread throughout the city and on social media.
Near a Christian community, authorities reportedly discovered tattered sacred text pages with blasphemous writing scrawled in red marker ink.
The reports infuriated the Muslim community, and the ensuing violence saw mobs attack and loot Christian residences.
According to the police, Christian property was dragged into the streets and burned.
Yassir Bhatti, a Christian of 31 years of age, was among those forced to abandon their homes.
“They smashed the windows and doors and removed refrigerators, sofas, chairs, and other household items to burn in front of the church,” he told the AFP news agency.
Furthermore, they burned and desecrated Bibles; they were cruel.
Social media videos depict protesters destroying Christian structures while police appear to observe.
A devout individual was in tears as he reported, “They burned everything.” They destroyed our dwellings, God’s temple.”
Sonam, along with her three children, escaped the area just before it was attacked.
“We just left without dressing,” she declared. We quickly grabbed our young children and fled.
The police superintendent of Punjab province, why, according to some eyewitness accounts, the police did not appear to attempt to stop the protestors in certain instances.
According to him, law enforcement did not wish to escalate the tension lest it result in loss of life.
Additionally, he verified the arrest of over 120 individuals for their participation in the unrest. The police identified the suspects using social media video.
Five cases have been lodged against hundreds of individuals suspected of being responsible for the violence, according to the police chief. Once the identification process is complete, more arrests are expected.
A Sri Lankan man accused of blasphemy was murdered by an angry throng and his body was set on fire two years ago. A mob in Gorja, Punjab, destroyed sixty homes and killed six people in 2009 for disrespecting Islam.
In the 19th century, Pakistan inherited the blasphemy statute from the British. In the 1980s, Islamabad increased penalties for offending Islam, including the death penalty.
About 96% of the population of Pakistan is Muslim. Other nations, such as Iran, Brunei, and Mauritania, impose the death penalty for offending religion.
Iftekharul Bashar, a researcher at the think tank RSIS who specializes in political and religious violence in South Asia, told that religiously motivated violence has increased in Pakistan since the country made blasphemy punishable by death.
“The Pakistani society has become more fragmented as a result of widening economic disparities, which has led to an increase in violence against minority religious groups,” said Mr. Bashar, adding that the emergence of “extremist and vigilante factions” within Pakistan has also contributed to this.
Amir Mir, the Punjab province’s information minister, condemned the most recent alleged blasphemy and stated in a statement that tens of thousands of police had been dispatched to the area and dozens of individuals had been detained.
The agitated gathering was mostly Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan supporters, a government source told Reuters. The TLP has denied participation.
Anwar ul-Haq Kakar, caretaker prime minister, demanded swift action against those culpable for the violence.
Pakistani bishop Azad Marshall said the Christian community in Lahore was “deeply pained and distressed” by the incidents.
He posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, “We cry out for justice and action from law enforcement and those who dispense justice, and the safety of all citizens to intervene immediately and assure us that our lives are valuable in our own country.”