Tense calm prevails in Sargodha after violence

Police lodge two cases over blasphemy and mob riots; security stepped up at churches

Nafasat Hasnain May 26, 2024
Citizens set fire outside the house of the alleged offender in the blasphemy case, attempted to set the house on fire as well (Photo: Video screenshot)



A tense calm prevailed in Sargodha on Sunday, following a day of violence in the Mujahid Colony area triggered by blasphemy allegations. The police have lodged two cases over the riots and increased security around churches for Sunday services.

In response to the unrest, the district administration imposed Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), banning all kinds of rallies, demonstrations, and gatherings in the district until May 31.

To boost public confidence, the police conducted a flag march across the city.

The violence erupted on Saturday when residents of Mujahid Colony, incensed by rumors of alleged blasphemy, launched violent protests. An enraged mob vandalized the house of a Christian man, Nazir Masih, and set his shoe factory on fire.

Police arrested over a dozen individuals for severely torturing Masih, who was rescued by the authorities and taken to a hospital in serious condition.

On Sunday, two separate cases were registered at the Urban Area police station. One case of desecration was filed against Nazir Masih, while another case of violence, attempted murder, and property damage was lodged against 16 identified individuals and approximately 500 unidentified persons.

Police reported that locals in Mujahid Colony had accused Nazir Masih of blasphemy, leading to widespread commotion. The resulting violence saw Masih's house and factory burned, and an attempt made on his life through severe torture.

The authorities have stepped up efforts to maintain order and prevent further violence, emphasizing the need for calm and adherence to the rule of law as investigations continue.

According to the police, tear gas was used to disperse the crowd during the violence. Anti-terrorism clauses have been applied in the first information reports (FIRs), and more than 28 suspects have been arrested. Raids are ongoing to apprehend additional suspects.

“The law and order situation in the area is under control,” the police stated. “No one will be allowed to take the law into their own hands.” Sargodha Commissioner Ajmal Bhatti reported that Nazir Masih, the Christian man at the center of the allegations, is now in stable condition.

To ensure the safety of the Christian community, police have been deployed outside churches and in Christian-majority areas across the district. SP HQ Ziaullah led a flag march through the city, starting from the Police Lines and passing through various neighborhoods to reassure the public and maintain order.

“There is an atmosphere of fear in the city after the Mujahid Colony incident. The purpose of the flag march is to reduce fear,” a police officer said. “The police is here to protect the citizens.”

Meanwhile, Punjab Minority Affairs Minister Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora said in a video statement that Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz took strict notice of the Mujahid Colony incident. He assured that the country’s Law and the Constitution were there for the protection of minorities.

The minister stated that damaging someone's property in the name of blasphemy allegations was not the right thing to do. “Such incidents are an attempt to bring Pakistan into disrepute. When there is law, no one will be allowed to violate it. Action will be taken against those responsible,” he added.


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