The Supreme Court on Tuesday termed a progress report — submitted by the Punjab government on the Jaranwala incident — worthy of being thrown into the dust bin as it directed the provincial government to submit the report afresh within ten days.
The top court has also sought details about all the worship places belonging to minority communities in the country within two months. Notices have been issued to the federal and provincial governments, the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA).
The top court's remarks came as a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa heard a case pertaining to the rights of minorities and the Jaranwala incident. The provincial government submitted its progress report on the incident.
The chief justice observed that he felt ashamed after seeing the report about the incident where several Churches and dozens of homes of the resident Christian community in Jaranwala were torched.
He asked representatives of the Punjab government about the arrests made in the incident so far. The Punjab law officer told the court that 22 cases had been registered in which 304 people had been arrested. Charge sheets had been collected in 18 of the 22 FIRs.
"MashaAllah, only these 18 challans were issued in 6 months?" the chief justice retorted cynically.
He further lamented how Pakistanis like to make noise about Islamophobia in other countries, but what are they doing themselves?
"Do you want to copy the way non-Muslims in India are treated?" he asked.
During the hearing, Faisalabad Police's Investigation Superintendent appeared before the court. The officer had been probing the Jaranwala incident. He told the bench that the Muslim community in the neighbourhood met and decided to take action on the blasphemous act.
Providing details of his investigation, he told the bench that the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran took place at 5:15 am, when the "Quranic scrolls were installed in a desecrating manner."
At this, the chief justice asked the investigation SP about the policemen who had been kicked off the force in wake of the incident.
The officer responded that an inquiry against the police officials was still underway, adding that a joint investigation team had been constituted to probe the incident.
Samuel Pyare, one of the petitioners from the Christian community, claimed that the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) had threatened them after the Jaranwala incident.
The mention of the TLP seemed to irritate the chief justice.
These are the same people who protested in Faizabad. We have not learned from our past mistakes, CJP Isa remarked.
He also expressed displeasure when Investigation SP hesitated to openly name the TLP.
The top court questioned the conduct of the Punjab Police and observed that the police knew who the real perpetrators of the Jaranwala incident were but were showing weakness and cowardice (in prosecuting them).
The top court observed that the police had lost public confidence by failing to stop those involved in vandalising Christian properties, adding that the police appeared to be scared of the attackers.
The top court further warned that the concerned police officers would be suspended or dismissed if the Punjab Police failed to give an adequate report of their investigations into the Jaranwala incident.
Role of media
The top court has observed that the government and the media should play their role to end extremism, violence, terrorism, religious sectarianism and hatred in the country.
It has further directed the media to broadcast special messages regarding religious harmony under Section 20 of the PEMRA Ordinance.
During the hearing, the top court further observed that incidents, such as the one in Jaranwala, occur due to lack of education, hatred and misuse of religion.
The top court, while seeking fresh reports, adjourned further hearings of the case for date-in-office.