Incoming chief justice of Pakistan Justice Qazi Faez Isa visited Jaranwala tehsil in Faisalabad district on Saturday to inquire after the local Christian community after 19 churches and several homes were torched in the neighborhood by a mob enraged over blasphemy allegations.
Justice Isa, who is slated to lead the Supreme Court from September 17, a day after incumbent CJP Umar Ata Bandial’s retirement, was briefed by the police and district administration at Danish School.
A senior journalist took to X, formerly Twitter, to share video footage of Justice Isa’s visit to the vandalized churches, where he met with members of the Christian community.
On August 16, a charged mob, incited over the loudspeakers of a local mosque, stormed the neighborhood ransacking and torching at least 19 churches and over 80 residences besides terrorizing members of the Christian community.
Accused of standing by as silent spectators as a mob of 5,000 to 6,000 persons armed with petrol, push carts and batons spread terror and panic in the town all day, the Punjab Police arrested at least 145 suspected rioters, including two prime suspects, out of the 1,470 persons booked in five FIRs.
The looting, burning and ransacking of Christian homes and places of worship sparked nationwide outrage.
Earlier in the day, the Punjab Police booked at least three local Christians over blasphemy allegations and attempted to negotiate with the Muslim mob, which was reportedly chanting Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) slogans.
Read Govt, TLP agree to stringent anti-blasphemy measures
The next day, several religious clerics issued a condemnation of the incident.
During his visit, Justice Isa said, “If anyone attacks churches, it is the responsibility of Muslims [to catch] the attackers”.
While speaking to members of the Christian community, the senior puisne SC judge said he does not “communicate with journalists” due to his profession and said that it is the Muslims who should help you as they have the greatest responsibility.
“Why leave everything to the state?” he asked, distributing food packets, which he acknowledged were akin to a “drop in the ocean” after asking a Christian leader to see who needed aid the most according to their financial status and accordingly disburse them.
He inquired from local residents about which other areas were in need of help and asked to be taken there.
In a statement issued after his visit to Jaranwala, Justice Isa quoted verses from the Holy Quran and recalled events from history where Muslim religious leaders had shown respect to Christianity.
Muslims were told to stand up against those who harmed churches, he said.
Referring to Articles 295 and 295-A of the Constitution of Pakistan, Justice Isa added that a person who “hurt the religious sentiments of anyone” is liable to be punished.
He further stressed that the actions of the mob in Jaranwala were in violation of the Constitution and the teachings of Islam, which calls for peace and tolerance.