Sargodha mob vandalises property, attempts to lynch accused after blasphemy accusation

  • Police rescue Christian families from mob, timely action averted any fatality
  • NCHR takes suo motto notice of violent attacks on persons and property of Christians
  • HRCP urges Punjab Police, administration to immediately restore calm, bring perpetrators to justice

SARGODHA/LAHORE: An angry mob rampaged through Christian families’ houses in Sargodha’s Mujahid Colony after a Christian man was accused of desecrating the Holy Quran. The police, however, rescued the two Christian families from the mob that attacked their homes on Saturday morning, police officials confirmed.

The mob attempted to set fire to the accused man’s house and lynch him.

Sargodha District Police Officer (DPO) Asad Ejaz Malhi told the media that the incident followed alleged desecration of the holy Quran, saying that swift deployment of a large police contingent averted any fatality.

“When police arrived, the mob had gathered outside the houses. Officers cordoned off the area and safely evacuated all residents,” Malhi said, adding that additional police units were stationed throughout the city to ensure the safety of the Christian community.

“The police peacefully dispersed the crowd,” he added.

Social media footage depicted a mob surrounding a bloodied man and others, including teenagers, wrecking furniture. Another video showed a large blaze outside a house. DPO Malhi claimed they were “fake videos”, insisting no one was injured.

“The police are maintaining law and order,” he said.

A statement from Minority Rights March also said that videos of the incident showed the mob lynching of a 70year-old man “on the instigation of a local cleric” while the man’s home and factory were set ablaze.

“The videos of the attack clearly show officers of the Punjab police being present on the site as silent spectators which points towards their tacit approval and facilitation of the terrorists involved in the attack,” the statement said.

A statement from the Punjab police said Sargodha Regional Police Officer Shariq Kamal, DPO Malhi and other police officials responded promptly as soon as the incident was reported and reached the spot immediately, managing to save 10 lives and controlling the situation.

“There was no loss of life, more than 10 police officers and personnel were also injured due to stone pelting by the angry people. The Sargodha police risked their lives to rescue the families and pulled them out from the crowd. Thanks to the timely action of the police. Sargodha was spared a great tragedy,” the statement said, adding that the situation in the city was “completely peaceful and under control”.

It praised members of the district peace committee and the Christian community for playing an “effective role in restoring the atmosphere of understanding and peace”.

“More than 2,000 officers and men of Sargodha police are on security duty. No one will be allowed to misbehave. Citizens are requested to support the police to deal with miscreants,” the statement quoted DPO Malhi as saying.

In response to the incident, Punjab Home Affairs Secretary Noor-ul-Amin Mengal departed to inspect the site on the instructions of Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz, a press statement said.

Mengal will review the causes and the investigation of the incident, and has ordered all senior officers to investigate every aspect. He will assess the law and order situation as per the chief minister’s instructions, the statement added.

“Pakistan belongs to all of us; no injustice will be tolerated under the guise of religion. Action will be taken according to the law after a complete investigation,” Mengal was quoted as saying.

‘Peace committee’

Sargodha DPO Malhi also announced that a district peace committee, comprising district administration officials and religious scholars from both Muslim and minority communities, would evaluate the situation and issue a statement. The Christian community is also expected to release a statement.

Regarding the suspect, DPO Malhi said the individual was in custody, and further investigation was under way, although he could not confirm if the alleged desecration had occurred.

Mohsin Malhi, a Sargodha resident, told Dawn.com that two houses and a factory were set on fire.

The incident evoked memories of a similar attack in Jaranwala last August, where a mob rampaged through a predominantly Christian neighbourhood, torching dozens of houses and churches.

NCHR takes suo motto notice of Sargodha incident

National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) has taken suo motto notice of violent attacks on the persons and property of Christians at Mujahid Colony, Gillwala, Tehsil and District Sargodha and has called report from DPO Sargodha besides impressing upon the Provincial Government to ensure protection of Christian community at Sargodha and elsewhere in the Province.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the Commission strongly condemned the violent attacks on alleged desecration of Holy Quran. The violence has reportedly resulted in loss of valuable human life.

The statement says that such acts totally disregard the sanctity of life and property, terrorise people from minorities, vitiates all norms of justice and encourages complete lawlessness. It mentions that the Commission expects swift and expeditious action by the law enforcement authorities to arrest and bring the culprits to the book in the minimum possible time so as to deter recurrence of such heinous incidents.

Condemnations

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed serious concern about the unfolding situation in Sargodha, particularly in Gillwala village, where the Christian community was reportedly at grave risk. “There are unconfirmed reports of a man being lynched,” HRCP stated on X.

The HRCP urged Punjab Police and district administration to “immediately restore calm and bring the perpetrators to justice while ensuring the Christian community’s safety”.

Minority Rights March said: “This attack once again points towards the sheer failure of the state and law enforcement agencies in curtailing growing extremism despite repeated directives from the Supreme Court as well.”

It said it condemned the “failure” of the Punjab government and police for “failing to learn from the Jaranwala attack last year and taking any concrete measures to curtail the growing radicalism.

“We condemn the state of facilitating once-banned outfits such as TLP (Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan), resulting in a Pakistan which is becoming unlivable for religious minorities with each passing day.”

The group demanded an “expeditious inquiry and action through a judicial commission and the one-man commission led by Dr Shoaib Suddle … not only against the mob involved in the attack but against the police officials and officers of the Punjab government who failed to take preemptive measures.”

It also demanded that any member of the Christian community falsely accused of blasphemy be provided protection and no false cases be lodged against them.

incident recalls last year’s Jaranwala violence

The incident recalled last year’s mob violence in Faisalabad’s Jaranwala tehsil, where multiple churches in a Christian neighborhood were attacked over an alleged desecration of the Holy Quran.

Police blocked all routes to Isa Nagri, home to over 500 Christian families.

Locals accused the police of standing by as hundreds armed with sticks and batons vandalized churches and ransacked and burned homes.

Media reports stated that a mob of over 100 set ablaze the Salvation Army Church, one of the oldest in the area. The United Presbyterian Church, Allied Foundation Church, and Shehrunwala Church were also ransacked.

Earlier this year, on February 14, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa directed the police to ensure that “religion is not used for personal purposes” and emphasized handling blasphemy cases “with diligence.”

The top court directed that, given the sensitivity of blasphemy cases, supervision and investigation would not be carried out by an officer below the rank of SP.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Isa, including Justice Musarrat Hilali and Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, granted bail to a blasphemy accused on a surety bond of Rs50,000 and ordered a further inquiry into the case.

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