Editor’s note: While the Inspector General of Police (IGP) has made claims that this incident is a conspiracy, it has not come as shock to a lot of Pakistanis since similar incidents have happened in the past.

Punjab IGP Dr Usman Anwar suspects potential foreign involvement in the recent violent riots in Jaranwala, where a communally stoked mob wreaked havoc by torching five churches.

In an exclusive interview with SAMAA TV, IGP Anwar stated that the timing and calculated actions of the main suspects in the incident have raised suspicions of a well-coordinated plan.
“While it is too early to conclusively establish external involvement, the Joint Investigation Team is set to delve into this angle”, he added.

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IGP Anwar believes that the perpetrators wanted to turn away the focus from the plight of women who are facing heinous acts in a neighboring country.

“The sheer size of the unruly crowd, estimated to be around five to six thousand people, posed a significant challenge for law enforcement. The risk of loss of life, if the authorities had engaged in a direct confrontation, was a major factor in their approach,” said IGP.

“We understand the frustration and concerns regarding our response,” IGP Anwar acknowledged, “but it was crucial to ensure the safety of innocent lives amidst the chaos.”

Meanwhile, the Chief of Army Staff, General Asim Munir, while addressing the participants of the annual internship program at General Headquarters said that Jaranwala incident is sad and unbearable.
The COAS said that such elements have no place in our society.

The COAS also said there is no scope for such Jaranwala incidents of intolerance and extreme behavior against minorities.

“All citizens are equal to each other regardless of religion, gender, caste or creed,” the Army’s top general said.

The COAS warned that no one will be allowed to take the law into their hands and people guilty of such crimes will be brought to justice.

Key suspects arrested

Over 130 individuals involved in the torching of the churches have already been apprehended, with the primary suspects also under custody, said Mr Usman.

The identification of more than 170 individuals has been facilitated through the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), aiding the ongoing investigation.

The Incident

Disturbing reports have been received from Jaranwala, Faisalabad, where multiple churches have been burnt amid allegations of blasphemy against a Christian community member. As per locals, the Salvation Army Church, United Presbyterian Church, Allied Foundation Church, and Shehroonwala Church situated in the Isa Nagri area have been burnt so far. Christian colonies all around the city have been evacuated and there is a complete shutter down in the city.

As per the videos and pictures circulating on social media, a police officer can be seen addressing the mob, trying to calm them while the crowd is demanding the death of the accused.

In another video a man can be seen in a masjid, announcing that Christians have committed blasphemy and is urging others to gather outside the mosque to protest within the boundaries of law.

In a separate video, a group of young boys and men can be seen chanting violent slogans.

In a recent update, the Jaranwala police on has registered terror cases against more than 600 people for “vandalising multiple churches and torching homes belonging to the Christian community.” 

As per reports, Lahore-Multan motorway was blocked by the protestors near Jaranwala. X (formerly Twitter) user Khurram Mushtaq tweeted:

“Lahore-Multan motorway road is blocked near Jaranwala by people of adjacent villages to protest against alleged blasphemy by a Christian. I fear they will convert into a fierce/violent mob soon. Administration should engage them as early as possible.”

According to Journalist Asad Toor, police have registered a Blasphemy case against some Christian community members.

A resident of Jaranwala, while talking to The Current, said that the entire Christian community is terrified. He said that the this is not a sudden incident. One of his house helpers, who belongs to the Christian community, arrived at their house around 6 o’clock in the morning and told his mother that the city may witness unrest. She further said the accused brothers were residents of the same colony and the matter seems to be a case of personal grudge.

Another source told The Current that a girl was being teased by some members of the Muslim community and when they were scolded, the aftermath spiralled out of control, leading to blasphemy allegations which led to violent protests all around the city.

The district administration has imposed section 144 for seven days, prohibiting all kinds of assembly, except for events organized by the government. Following the orders issued by the caretaker prime minister, the Punjab government has given directives to form a high-level inquiry committee to probe into the incident.

“This was a well thought out plan to disrupt peace and a high-level investigation is underway regarding the desecration of the Holy Quran and incidents that take place afterward,” a spokesperson for the provincial government said in a statement.

Meanwhile, last night Punjab Chief Secretary Zahid Akhtar Zaman and Inspector General of Police (IGP) Dr. Usman Anwar also reached Jaranwala to monitor the situation. The officers also held a meeting with the Aman Committee members and other locally influential religious and political parties’ leaders to engage the protesters.

Meanwhile, Punjab government has removed Jaranwala AC Shaukat Masih from his post and made him an officer on special duty (OSD). Sources said the AC, who is also a Christian, was made OSD to pacify the violent protesters who were pressing the government to immediately transfer the officer.

Interim Prime Minister of Pakistan, Anwaar ul Haq Kakar, took to X (former Twitter) and condemned the incident and said, “I am gutted by the visuals coming out of Jaranwala,#Faisalabad. Stern action would be taken against those who violate law and target minorities.”

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party and former Foreign Minister, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, urged the administration to ensure safety of the Christian community and their churches.

Senator Sarfraz Bugti tweeted, “Punjab Govermnet should enforce its full might to protect the Christian churches and homes.”

Former Interior Minister of Pakistan and President of PMLN Punjab, Rana Sanaullah said, “The culprits must be brought to justice at the earliest, and the law should take its due course.”

Chairman Pakistan Ulema Council, Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, tweeted that the situation is troublesome and police is trying to resolve the situation.

Bishop Azad Marshall, President Bishop Church of Pakistan & Educator, said, “We, Bishops, Priests and lay people are deeply pained and distressed at the Jaranwala incident in the Faisalabad District in Pakistan.”

The situation is changing by the hour in the city and netizens have taken to social media to raise their concerns.

President Pakistan Muslim League Kasur, Rana Sikandar Hayat, urged authorities to take immediate action.

Politician and Activist, Ammar Ali Jan, stated that the police is helpless in front of bigots.