Gujjar Khan Church Incident: Arson Suspected in Pre-Easter Inferno

Local Christian community claims unidentified miscreants had torched the building, while police say a short circuit could be the probable cause of the fire

Gujjar Khan Church Incident: Arson Suspected in Pre-Easter Inferno

A fire damaged a church in Gujjar Khan, Rawalpindi, less than 24 hours before Easter services were due to begin.

The Presbyterian church caught fire around 3am between Friday night and Saturday morning. The fire destroyed fixtures, fittings and items stored inside the church for Easter.

The parish claimed that the inferno was the result of arson by unidentified miscreants. They pointed to how the church had been facing challenges from the builder of a multi-storey plaza adjacent to the church. 

However, police said an initial investigation suggested that a short circuit probably caused the fire, though the fire department would conduct a detailed investigation to ascertain the reason for the fire.

The local Christian community claimed that Reverend Adeem Alphonse, the pastor in charge of the church, had been involved in tensions with the owner of an under-construction plaza adjacent to the church. 

The root cause of the tensions between the church administration and the plaza owner stems from the blockage of an access street leading from the church to the plaza. The church had blocked this access street for security reasons for Good Friday and Easter services. The conflict boiled to the point where police had to intervene and resolve the conflict.

After Good Friday services, the church was locked, and the parishioners went home. But at around 3 am on Saturday, locals found the church ablaze.

The Christian community complained to the police about the fire. Despite their belief that miscreants were responsible for torching the church, they claimed that police inserted in the FIR that a short circuit caused the fire, a statement not contained in the original application.

The Christian community later staged a protest outside the church against the fire and demanded an impartial investigation and compensation for the damage suffered.