Alleged desecration of Holy Qura’an; Six burnt alive in Gojra riots
02 August, 2009
TOBA TEK SINGH: Six people were burnt alive and at least 19 others were injured in the Christian Colony in Gojra, as riots broke out on Saturday in the town following an incident of alleged desecration of the Holy Qura’an by three Christians in Chak No 95-JB two days ago. More than 50 houses were set ablaze by an angry mob.
Later, an injured person identified as Akhlas also succumbed to his injuries in a hospital.
A complete strike was observed against the alleged desecration in the town on Saturday in response to a protest call by the Anjuman-e-Tajiran.
Religious parties held a public meeting in Malkanwala Chowk of Gojra after which enraged people took out a rally. They arrived in a Christian locality near the railway track and started pelting people with rocks. The Christian community reportedly retaliated with gun shots, injuring 10 protesters.
The police used tear gas and fired in the air to disperse the protesters. The mob pelted the police with rocks. As a result, Gojra TMO Rana Ahmad Nawaz and three police officers — Kamalia DSP Akbar Niazi, Sub-Inspector Mukhtar Ahmad and ASI Tariq Mahmood — were injured while a Faisalabad police constable Usman Khan received a bullet wound.
The police failed to control the mob and protesters entered the Christian Colony. They set on fire at least 50 houses, in which six of the dwellers were burnt alive. The dead were identified as 50-year-old Hameed Masih, 20-year-old Anis Bibi, 19-year-old Asifa Bibi, 22-year-old Imamia Bibi, an elderly unidentified woman and a seven-year-old unidentified boy.
A Labour Qaumi Movement leader, Shabbir Ahmad, told journalists he and his fellows rescued a number of Christians when the mob was setting ablaze their houses in the Christian Colony.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, Punjab Local Government Minister Dost Muhammad Khosa, Punjab Police IG Tariq Saleem Dogar and others visited the locality. The IGP suspended Gojra DSP Raja Ghulam Abbas for his inability to control the violence. The ministers expressed sympathy with the affected families.
The Rangers have been called out to avert any untoward incident. The Salvation Army Church was also damaged in the Christian Colony by the protesters.
Agencies add: A shocked Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani spoke to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif about the Gojra incident. He directed him to bring the culprits to justice. He appealed to the people to remain calm and exercise restraint.
Civil Hospital Gojra Medical Superintendent Dr Anwaarul Haq confirmed that six burnt bodies, four women and two children, were received at the hospital.
The government sent two provincial ministers — Sardar Dost Muhammad Khosa and Kamran Michael to Adda Korian to pacify the people.
According to sources, the Faisalabad commissioner along with the DIG and DPO Toba Tek Singh were holding talks with the parties concerned when some miscreants set the house of Riaz Masih on fire.
Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti said, “There is no truth in the (blasphemy) allegation.” Bhatti said the attackers belonged to the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba group.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said authorities had investigated the allegation of a copy of Qura’an being defaced and “our initial reports say there has not been any incident of desecration.”
Sanaullah said although the situation had calmed down by Friday, “some miscreants and extremists entered the city today and pushed the people toward armed clashes.”
Dost Mohammad Khosa said the issue of the alleged desecration had been settled. “Today, somebody opened fire at a peaceful rally that was passing by a Christian neighbourhood. That made things worse. We are sure some miscreants have tried to exploit the situation,” he added.
The members of the protest rally receiving bullet wounds were identified as Nadeem, 16, Ali Raza, 16, Safdar, 16, Asif, 35 and Zubair, 10. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said no one will be allowed to take the law into his hands.