Tensions flared in the city of Jaranwala, Punjab, leading to the burning of multiple churches and several houses amidst allegations of Holy Quran desecration. The Punjab government reported the arrest of over 100 individuals involved in the ensuing riots.
On Wednesday, an FIR was lodged against two individuals in Jarnawala, accusing them of desecrating the Holy Quran. News of the alleged desecration ignited street protests, during which agitators set fire to at least one church and a few residences belonging to the Christian community. The incident escalated tensions in the city, prompting the deployment of Rangers.
As detailed in the FIR, the accused are charged with using derogatory language and desecrating the Holy Quran at Cinema Chowk in Jaranwala. Upon the police’s arrival at the scene, pages of the Holy Quran with offensive inscriptions in red ink were discovered, and the accused fled.
Claims circulated that the authorities were hesitant to apprehend the suspects mentioned in the FIR. The accused have been charged under Sections 295B and 295C of blasphemy, which carry the death penalty upon conviction.
Following the incident, agitators targeted a local church, vandalizing and subsequently setting it ablaze. The Assistant Commissioner’s office also fell victim to vandalism by an enraged mob. Subsequently, a furious crowd gathered at Cinema Chowk and then proceeded toward Isa Nagri, the main Christian settlement in the area.
Numerous social media posts suggest that several members of the Christian community residing in the area have vacated their homes. A viral video depicts a police officer attempting to placate the angry crowd by assuring them of legal action upon the arrest of the accused. However, the agitated crowd demanded immediate punishment.
Responding to the situation, the Punjab government initiated a high-level inquiry into the Jaranwala incident. A peace committee was promptly assembled, and various parties condemned the incident.
The Punjab government’s spokesperson revealed that an immediate high-level inquiry had been ordered to probe the alleged conspiracy to desecrate the Holy Quran and inflame Muslim sentiments. The police acted swiftly, arresting over 100 individuals, and video footage of the incident is also under scrutiny.
Bishop Azad Marshall, president of the Church of Pakistan, took to social media to refute the accusation of Holy Quran desecration, asserting that law enforcement agencies should intervene to protect the people. Pastor Khalid Mukhtar, who oversees churches in Jaranwala, alleged that the mob targeted six churches and lamented that despite his calls for help, the police did not respond.