Pak shrine set ablaze after factory torched over blasphemy allegations
A mob set fire to a place of worship in Pakistan Punjab’s Jhelum district on Saturday in retaliation for an arson attack on their factory Friday night, agencies report.
The place of worship located in Kala Gujran was guarded by local police forces anticipating revenge attack.
When the mob tried to break through the security cordon, police baton-charged and tear-gassed them. Undaunted, the crowd went on pelting them with stones and managed to get past them before setting fire to the shrine.
As tension rose, a contingent of the Pakistan Army arrived to assist the local police.
Lieutenant Colonel Khurram of the Pakistan Army soon pacified the mob and they started chanting praises to the army.
The trouble started amid rumors that a senior security official of the factory had allegedly desecrated Quran. These rumours gained credibility when people started using the public address system in mosques to condemn this “blasphemous act.”
Friday night, a mob gathered at the factory in Jhelum and set it on fire. Although the facility was destroyed, no one died in the arson attack.
“The incident took place after we arrested the head of security at the factory, Qamar Ahmed Tahir, over complaints that he ordered the burning of the copies of Holy Quran,” Adnan Malik, a senior police official in the area, told AFP.
According to police, a factory employee reported that Tahir was overseeing the burning of the copies of Quran in the facility’s boiler and they intervened to stop it.
“We registered a blasphemy case against Tahir, who is Ahmadi by faith, and arrested him after confiscating the burnt material, which also included copies of the Holy Quran,” Malik said.
Four other men, who were previously arrested on suspicion of blasphemy, were reportedly released by the police.
Some people in the area opposed this and started making announcements condemning this on loudspeakers in mosques.
This drew people not only from the neighborhood but also from a nearby village. They gathered on Friday and set fire to the chipboard factory and the owner’s residence adjoining it.
The mob then moved to the Grand Trunk Road, blocked traffic and chanted slogans against the police.
Police fired rubber bullets and fired tear gas shells at the mob. Three men were reportedly injured in the incident.
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan. Even unproven allegations often prompting mob violence and killings.
Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims by the Pakistani government in 1974.
They have been arrested in Pakistan for reading the Holy Quran, holding religious celebrations and having Quranic verses on rings or wedding cards. Four years ago, 86 Ahmadis were killed in two simultaneous attacks in Lahore.
Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law does not clearly define blasphemy but says the offence is punishable by death. Anyone can file a blasphemy case claiming their religious feelings were hurt.