Police in Faislabad have booked over 600 people on terror charges for the violence perpetrated against the local Christian community over alleged blasphemy in Jaranwala Tehsil of Faisalabad, Dawn reported on Thursday.
Other media outlets said that one person who made an announcement from a mosque loudspeaker, inciting people to come out and act "if the police do not", is among those who have been booked and arrested.
The report said that two cases, containing terror and blasphemy charges, were filed in the Jaranwala City Police Station with reporting time as 10 am on Wednesday.
Another criminal complaint said that a mob of 500 to 600 people had "attacked the Christian community, ransacked people's homes after entering them and torched Christians' homes and the church building," it read.
It added that the mob had gathered outside Mehtab Mosque near Cinema Chowk and that its members were "armed with batons, road carts, petrol bottles and started chanting slogans". It accused eight named 'leaders' of the mob - including one affiliated with the Jamaat Ahl-e-Sunnat while another affiliated with the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) - for inciting the mob. It added that the mob was urged to stop, but it "resisted the police party" and entered the Christian community's homes and ransacked them.
The FIR contains sections 7-1(d), 7-1(g), 7-1(h) and 7-1(i) — all pertaining to "punishment for acts of terrorism" — of the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.
Other criminal provisions included are sections 148 (rioting, armed with a deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of the offence committed in prosecution of common object), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups, etc.), 186, (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 324 (attempted murder), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of Rs50), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy a house, etc) and 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
Those booked have also been charged under sections pertaining to blasphemy, including Section 295 (injuring or defiling a place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the PPC.
The FIR also contains sections 5 (inspections) and 6 (punishment) of the Punjab Sound Systems (Regulation) Act 2015 — the latter pertains to the "regulation of sound systems" and "prohibition of the use of sound systems".
Meanwhile, one suspect, whose video was posted online in which he is using a mosque loudspeaker system to incite area residents, has been apprehended by identifying him using the video. The suspect was identified as Yasin, Geo News reported.
Police have said they will use the videos of the incident posted online together with videos collected from other sources to identify the culprits who incited the crowd of thousands to attack the homes of Christians.
Jaranwala, tears as residents return to ransacked homes, burnt bibles
Meanwhile, a tense calm prevailed in the streets of Jaranwala on Thursday as Rangers patrolled the streets.
Shops and markets remained closed and there were few people out in the streets.
Some Christians, who had taken refuge in the fields near the city, spending the night under the open sky, among others returned to pick up the pieces of their vandalised homes and worship places.
Christians of Jaranwala spent their night out in the fields in fear of Muslims who were burning their Churches & houses.— Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi (@Ali_Abbas_Zaidi) August 17, 2023
Many also stayed in makeshift tents by the roadsides.
Shame on our society, gov & state. Shame on hollow condemnation. Shame on those who patronize terror! pic.twitter.com/oGenAcjbe1
One video showed people picking out burnt copies of the bible from the rubble outside a church.
Elsewhere, two Christians embraced each other and wept at the damage wrought to their homes.
2 #Christians weep as they meet the morning after the ugly #Jaranwala incident where several churches and houses have been burnt. Most who live here in this area are sanitary workers or menial wage earners. Everything they owned has been burnt to a crisp. #Faisalabad pic.twitter.com/0Vx0DFtOYE— Naila Waseem (@naila_waseem6) August 17, 2023
According to the National Commission of Human Rights, at least 17 churches were vandalised or damaged, including 12 registered churches and five unregistered churches.