Monday July 22, 2024

Jaranwala vandalism: Punjab govt's progress report rejected by SC

CJP Qazi Faez Isa says Punjab's progress report 'worth throwing in trash'

By Maryam Nawaz
February 13, 2024
Police officials and residents stand amid debris outside the torched Saint John Church in Jaranwala on the outskirts of Faisalabad on August 17, 2023. — AFP
Police officials and residents stand amid debris outside the torched Saint John Church in Jaranwala on the outskirts of Faisalabad on August 17, 2023. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Punjab government's progress report on the Jaranwala incident was rejected by the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, during the hearing of the case pertaining to the rights of minorities, said the report that the provincial government submitted was "worth throwing in the trash".

On August 16, a charged crowd vandalised several churches and set scores of houses on fire in Jaranwala town of the industrial district of Faisalabad after clerics made announcements in mosques inciting the mob to attack the Christian community under alleged allegations of blasphemy.

Paramilitary troops were called in to handle the violence and bring the situation under control, according to a government order seen by Reuters.

Soon after the incident, CJP Isa, who was the chief justice designate at the time, visited the neighbourhood to meet and express solidarity with the Christian community.

The interim Punjab government had also ordered a high-level inquiry to probe the burning and demolishment of properties belonging to the local Christian community in the neighbourhood.

"I feel ashamed after seeing the report about the Jaranwala incident," CJP Isa said.

Questioning the additional advocate general for Punjab, the chief justice asked when the Jaranwala incident took place and how many people were caught so far.

In his response, he said: "Jaranwala incident took place on August 16, 2023, 22 cases were registered, 304 people were arrested. [At least] 18 out of the 22 FIR challans have been collected."

"MashaAllah only these 18 challans were issued in 6 months?" the chief justice remarked sarcastically.

CJP Isa lamented how Pakistanis 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 questioned.

The chief justice asked the additional advocate general for Punjab about the time the first church was burned and at what is Fajr in August.

Meanwhile, the Superintendent of Police (SP) Investigation Faisalabad, who was probing the Jaranwala incident, said the Muslim community in the neighbourhood met and decided to take action on the blasphemous act.

"In Jaranwala, brave police stood watching the spectacle," CJP Isa asked.

In his response, the SP investigation said: "The desecration of the Holy Quran took place at 5:15am, when the Quranic scrolls were installed in a desecrating manner."

CJP Isa, during the hearing, asked if Pakistan was only made to protect Muslims.

He further questioned the SP investigation about how many policemen were fired in the wake of the incident, responding to which he said: “An inquiry is being conducted against the police officials.”

The SP also said that a joint investigation team was constituted to probe the incident. CJP Isa said a JIT is made when a task has to be stalled.

Samuel Pyare, one of the Christian petitioners at the hearing, said the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) threatened them after the Jaranwala incident.

CJP Isa, who was agitated at TLP’s mention, said: “Did you hear now? These are the same people who protested in Faizabad. We have not learned from past mistakes.”

The chief justice was upset after the SP investigation did not openly name the TLP.

“If you don't have the courage, [we’ll] give a notice to Tehreek-e-Labaik. They will accept it themselves,” he remarked.