Christianity News Daily

“The Pakistan Supreme Court has reprimanded Punjab for the Jaranwala attacks.”

The court ordered officials to submit a new report within ten days.

Heading a three-judge bench hearing a suo motu case in Islamabad on the rights of minorities and the Aug. 16 attacks in Jaranwala, which left multiple churches and homes of Christians ransacked and burned after two Christians were falsely accused of desecrating the Quran, Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa said that he felt ashamed after seeing the report.

“I am feeling ashamed that only 18 challans [charge sheets] were submitted in the case in the last six months,” Isa said to a Punjab law officer. “We keep raising our voices and crying over ‘Islamophobia’ wherever we go in the world. But what are we doing here in Pakistan? Have we ever thought about that? Do we want to follow in the footsteps of India, where minorities are not safe?”

The Punjab Additional Advocate General had reported that 22 cases had been registered in which 304 people were arrested and that charge sheets had been collected in 18 of the 22 First Information Reports.

Isa noted that the report lacked relevant information such as the registration of FIRs regarding offenses, the number of suspects named, the status of the cases, the names of the relevant courts where cases were pending, and the progress made so far.

“The manner in which the investigation was conducted and the apparent hesitation shown by the law enforcement agencies in identifying the culprits will only bring disrepute to the police force,” he said, adding that it appeared that the investigation agencies were not interested in punishing the culprits. Instead, it appears that those who break the law intimidate those who work for the state, and occasionally, rather than defending the lives and property of non-Muslims, they advance the agenda of the offenders.

Isa asked the Faisalabad Police Investigation Superintendent what action had been taken against the officers who failed to stop the rioters. The superintendent responded that an inquiry was still underway. He also acknowledged that Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) activists, a Muslim extremist political party, were in charge of the attack.

Isa ordered the Punjab Police to conduct a thorough investigation afresh and ensure the prosecution of the accused, warning that officials would be suspended if they failed to yield results. He also directed the Punjab government to submit a report on the progress of the reconstruction work on church buildings and compensation paid to victims.

Calling for collective efforts to curb the extremist mindset, Isa said incidents like the Jaranwala attacks arise out of a lack of education, misinformation, hatred, and suspicion, where miscreants used religion as a pretext to launch attacks on non-Muslims.

Isa stated that “society as a whole and those who shape public opinion should attend to these matters.” “Considerable responsibility rests on the federal and provincial governments, as well as the media, to encourage interfaith harmony and to forthrightly denounce events where non-Muslim citizens come under attack.”

The court added that all citizens deserve to be treated equally, and no one should be allowed to gain political capital by sowing religious discord.

Christians Laud Justice

Church and community leaders welcomed the chief justice’s order.

Marshall had filed a petition in the Lahore High Court seeking a judicial inquiry into the incident. Still, the Punjab government opposed it, citing the formation of joint investigation committees as sufficient action. The petition was repeatedly adjourned on various pretexts, but at the last hearing in December, the court directed the Punjab government to reconsider its decision.

More than two months have passed since the court gave the order, but the government has yet to file its final response.

“We were dissatisfied with how the police handled the investigation, but now we believe that the Punjab government will give the cases the attention they deserve,” Mukhtar said.

Rights activist Samuel Makson said the Supreme Court’s intervention breathed life into dying cases.

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