Police have arrested two Christian brothers accused of blasphemy, a spokesperson and a source said on Friday, two days after a mob burnt churches and houses, alleging that the two men desecrated the Holy Quran.
Pages of the Holy Quran were found in a street with derogatory comments written on them in red, the police said. One attached extra page also carried the names, addresses, and national identity card numbers of the accused, Punjab Inspector General of Police Usman Anwar said.
The police were investigating all angles as to why the names and addresses would be attached, he told Reuters. A court ordered the two suspects to be held in police custody for seven days for questioning, a government spokesperson said.
He also said more than 80 Christian homes and 19 churches were vandalised when a mob rampaged through the streets over alleged blasphemy this week in Jaranwala.
“The events that unfolded were tragic. Violence like this can never be justified,” Punjab IG Anwar told AFP.
Anwar said he personally interrogated the two Christian brothers accused of blasphemy “to avoid accusations of torture”.
The police said they arrested an additional 128 people linked to the rampage, in which 87 homes were damaged in the Christian neighbourhood, their contents strewn all over the streets.
On Friday, 3,200 churches were guarded by the police across the province to provide reassurance to the Christian community, Anwar said, adding that he would travel to Jaranwala on Sunday to show solidarity with the Christian community.
Christian groups have held a number of small protests across the country calling for greater protection.
“We hope that through this protest, the government must realise that this issue must be dealt with sternly and those who committed destruction must be brought to justice,” Archbishop of Karachi, Benny Travis, told AFP at a small rally.Condemnation
Read Targeted Christians found shelter with Muslims during Jaranwala rampage
The Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) and the International Interfaith Harmony Council (IIHC) on Friday jointly observed a solemn ‘Condemnation Day’ across the country, denouncing the shocking desecration incidents of worship places in Jaranwala.
The widespread outrage echoed through mosques as religious leaders and scholars addressed Friday congregations. The call for unity and justice resonated as Ulema and Mashaikh from different regions of the country condemned the heinous act.
Demanding swift justice, they reiterated that the perpetrators of the tragic incident must face a speedy trial. Religious scholars, while speaking to the public during Friday sermons, firmly labelled those who were inciting violence as enemies of Islam and Pakistan.
PUC Chairman Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi announced that a delegation of Muslim and Christian leaders would embark on a journey to Jaranwala on Saturday (today), asserting “we stand as plaintiffs of the Jaranwala tragic incident”.
Taking to X (formerly Twitter), prominent religious scholar Mufti Taqi Usmani has called the Jaranwala incident “shameful” and “highly condemnable”.
“If someone has committed an unlawful act, no one is authorised to take the law into his hand and burn the church or assault any peaceful Christian citizen,” he stressed.
Separately, at a news conference, Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee Chairman Maulana Abdul Khabeer Azad said a high-level commission should be constituted to probe the Jaranwala rampage.