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Pakistan: More than 100 people have been arrested over church fires

by Noor Zaman
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In an eastern Pakistani city, more than 100 people have been detained after tens of thousands of Muslims destroyed homes and set fire to churches.

Arguments that two Christian men split pages from the Quran triggered violence in Jaranwala.

One day after the violence, on Thursday, the famous Salvation Army Church was still buried in flames.

The situation in the city is still tight, and security fencing has been placed around several ruins.

Additionally, public gatherings have been restricted for seven days in Jaranwala’s Faisalabad area.

The two men have been charged with insulting God, which carries a death sentence in Pakistan, but they haven’t been detained despite being accused of destroying the Quran, the sacred book of Islam.

Even though no one has yet been executed in Pakistan for insulting God, even the mere claim can spark large-scale protests that occasionally end in killings and murders.

According to a local official who spoke to BBC Urdu, reports of the violation of the Quran spread around the city and on social media early on Wednesday morning, causing calls to the police about protests and fires.

Authorities claimed to have discovered shredded pages of the holy book close to a Christian neighborhood that had indecent writing on them in red marker.

The reports shocked the Muslim community, and the ensuing unrest saw mobs destroy and pillage Christian homeowners’ homes.

According to police, BBC The things Christian had were taken out into the streets and set on fire.

Christian Yassir Bhatti, 31, was one of those forced to leave his home.

He told the AFP news agency, “They broke the windows and doors and took out refrigerators, sofas, chairs, and other household objects and set them up in front of the Church to be burned.

“They were violent; they burned and destroyed Bibles as well.”

Social media videos show protesters demolishing Christian structures while cops appear to be looking on.

A local pastor named Javed Bhatti told the BBC that “they burned everything. Our residences and this house of God were heartbroken.

Just before the attack, Sonam, another woman, fled with her three children.

“We just left without dressing,” she remarked. We grabbed our young children and took off running.

A man from the country of Sri Lanka passed away, and his body was set on fire two years ago after he was accused of defamation. Six individuals were killed and 60 homes were destroyed in the Punjabi district of Gorja in 2009 after a gang claimed they had insulted Islam.

In the nineteenth century, Pakistan took up the British practice of law. Islamabad enacted greater penalties in the 1980s, including the death penalty for insulting Islam.

The majority of people in Pakistan are Muslims—about 96%. Other nations, such as Iran, Brunei, and Mauritania, also execute people for defaming a religion.

Since Pakistan made blasphemy a capital offense, there has been an increase in religious-motivated violence since it “bolsters violent behavior,” according to Iftekharul Bashar, a researcher at the think tank RSIS who studies political and religious violence in South Asia.

According to Mr. Bashar, “widening economic disparities have caused Pakistani society to become more fragmented, which has resulted in an increase in violence against minority religious groups.”

This troubling trend was further aided by the growth of vigilante and extremist groups in Pakistan, some of which have substantial financial support.

The Punjab province’s communications minister, Amir Mir, denounced the most recent alleged act of blasphemy and said in a statement that thousands of police officers had been dispatched to the area, where dozens of people had been detained.

According to a government source who spoke to Reuters, the irate group was primarily composed of members of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), an Islamist political organization. The TLP has refuted all accusations.

Anwar ul-Haq Kakar, the acting prime minister, urged immediate action against the perpetrators of the violence.

The neighboring city of Lahore’s bishop, a Pakistani named Azad Marshall, expressed that the Christian community was “deeply pained and distressed” by the incidents.

X, formerly known as Twitter, is where he issued the statement. “We cry out for justice and action from law enforcement and those who dispense justice, and for the safety of all citizens to intervene immediately and assure us that our lives are valuable in our own homeland,” he wrote.

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