A gruesome tale of horror and terror unfolded in Jaranwala, Pakistan when enraged mob vandalised and torched at least 21 churches and several houses of Christians over allegations of blasphemy on August 16, 2023. The violent mob of hundreds also attacked office of local Assistant Commissioner reports say.
Seeing the gravity of the situation, the District Administration imposed Section 144 for seven days prohibiting all kinds of assembly except for events organized by the government. Details are that news of desecrated pages of the Islamic holy book were allegedly found near a house at the Cinema Chowk area in Jaranwala, where two Christian brothers resided. The news spread like a wildfire enraging local Muslims. Those who had levelled the allegations approached different mosques and detailed the news to the clerics followed by announcements that incited people to express their reaction to the alleged desecration of the pages of the holy book.
Local media detailed that the situation escalated when members of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) a religiopolitical outfit started inciting people asking them to reach the site of the alleged incident. In no time, a mob of hundreds of incensed people gathered outside the house of the Christian brothers who had fled by then. The mob set their house on fire; however the fury sparked a spate of violent incidents.
Videos posted on social media local clerics can can be seen inciting locals. Local clerics used mosque loudspeakers to urge their followers to demonstrate. “Christians have desecrated the Holy Quran. All clerics, all Muslims should unite and gather in front of the mosque. Better to die if you don’t care about Islam,” one cleric is heard saying in a video.
By then people started gathering in Jaranwala town and unleashed their wrath by setting churches on fire after ransacking them. Witnesses detailed that the houses of Christians were ransacked and all the valuables were taken before torching them. “The attackers did not belong to this area, they came from somewhere else. We have never seen those people in our area,” a witness told local media.
Desperate Christian residents two nearby localities, near Chak 127-GB on the main City Road and near Chak 126-GB, Bridge Colony, along Shahrwana Canal – also known as Christian Colony fled from their houses fearing for their lives. While the mob looted their houses and set them on fire leaving a trail of destruction and misery behind.
The news of the incident generated widespread outcry from not only Christians but from international community as well. In the wake of heinous incident Anwaar ul Haq Kakar Caretaker Pakistani Premier tweeted: “I am gutted by the visuals coming out of Jaranwala, Faisalabad. Stern action would be taken against those who violate law and target minorities. All law enforcement has been asked to apprehend culprits and bring them to justice. Rest assured that the government of Pakistan stands with our citizenry on equal basis.”
ISPR quoted the Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir saying: “Jaranwala incident is extremely tragic and totally intolerable. There is no space for such incidents of intolerance and extreme behaviour by any segment of the society against anyone, particularly against minorities.” COAS added that all citizens of the country “are equal amongst each other irrespective of religion, gender, cast or creed”. He assured that no one would be allowed to take the law into their hands and those “culpable of committing such crimes will be brought before the court of justice”.
The Caretaker Chief Minister Punjab of Mohsin Naqvi visiitng Jaranwala on Sunday, August 20 announced compensation of two million rupees for each affected family. CM Naqvi assured that the affected buildings of churches will be restored in their original condition. He said that stern action will be taken against the perpetrators while stressing on the need to join hands to prevent this kind of incidents in future.