40 arrested, 500 booked for attacking Christians in Pakistan
Lahore: At least 40 people, including a cleric and religious party leader, have been arrested and another 500 booked in Pakistan on terrorism charges for looting over a dozen houses of Christians and vandalising a church, forcing authorities to deploy paramilitary forces.
An angry mob looted several houses belonging to Christians and attempted to torch a church in Sanda area on Sunday after a Christian youth allegedly committed blasphemy.
“We have arrested 40 people and booked another 500 under terrorism charges for vandalising a church, damaging public and private property and injuring policemen,” senior police officer Ijaz Shafi told reporters.
He said Tariq, a local leader of Shabab-i-Milli, a sister organisation of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami group, had gathered the mob on the call of a cleric to torch the church in Sanda.
The cleric allegedly made an announcement from a mosque that a Christian youth had committed blasphemy and Muslims should come out of their homes to protect the honour of the religion.
“Police acted timely and saved the Christian community,” he said, adding a case has been registered against the accused under various sections, including terrorism.
After hearing that police have arrested the ‘blasphemer’, a number of people had gathered outside the police station and demanded handing over the accused to them.
The police, however, refused and dispersed the mob which then headed to the accused Humayun Faisal Masih’s house in the thickly-populated Sanda area and looted his and several other Christian houses.
Many Christians had left their houses after receiving the information that the mob was heading towards them.
Punjab Home Minister Col (R) Shuja Khanzada said rangers and police have been deployed at the troubled locality to maintain peace.
He said the security of churches in the province have also been beefed up.
Minority member Punjab Assembly Shahzad Munshi has appealed to the government to take special measures to protect minorities in the wake of such incidents that “are on the rise in the country, especially in Punjab province”.
He said the government “will also have to do something to promote inter-faith harmony.