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CJP Iftikhar takes notice of Lahore incident

11 March, 2013

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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry took notice of the Badami Bagh incident that occurred in Lahore on Saturday and fixed the matter for today (Monday) and directed its office to issue notices to the Punjab advocate general and Punjab IGP directing them to appear and submit comprehensive reports.

The action was taken on an office note initiated by the Supreme Court registrar based on the press clippings of different newspapers containing the details of the incident, in which over 178 houses were burnt in a mob attack on Saturday in a predominantly Christian colony in the Badami Bagh area over an alleged blasphemy incident. The violence began on Friday, when a man accused a Christian, Sawan Masih, of committing blasphemy by making offensive comments about the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and defiling pages of the holy Quran.

It was further reported that the mob comprising thousands of infuriated protesters attacked Joseph Colony on Noor Road in the Badami Bagh area and forced some 170 Christian families to flee the area. They ransacked the houses, looted them, threw out household items, doused them with petrol and set fire to them. The attackers went on a rampage, setting on fire many houses, damaging vehicles and hurling stones at the police.

However, the police did not take any action against the people who were damaging properties and setting fire to them.

Zardari vows equal rights to minorities

President Asfi Ali Zardari said on Sunday that no effort should be spared in safeguarding the rights of non-Muslim communities as equal citizens of the state.

Zardari issued the direction in a meeting with Punjab Governor Makhdum Syed Ahmed Mahmud who called on him at the Bilawal House here and briefed him in detail about the incident in Badami Bagh, Lahore. Spokesperson to the President, Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the Punjab governor was especially called by the president to inquire about the unfortunate incident in which a mob vandalised the houses of Christian community in Lahore on Saturday.

He said that the governor apprised the president about the details of the incident. The spokesperson said that the president advised the prime minister to provide compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the affected families from the federal government's coffers. He advised the governor to personally monitor the relief and rehabilitation of the affected people and keep him informed, on regular basis, about the progress into the investigations of the incident.

The president said that the protection of the non-Muslim citizens was as much a sacred duty of the government as that of the protection of Muslim citizens. He said that no effort should be spared in safeguarding the rights of non-Muslim communities as equal citizens of the state. Zardari also directed that those involved in the act of vandalism should be brought to justice and the protection and security of the Christian community be ensured.

Farhatullah Babar said that the president also appealed to the religious leaders of the country to help the government in bringing to justice all those elements who misuse the name of the religion for their vested interests and feel no qualms in attacking the vulnerable sections of society. Zardari said that inter-faith harmony was essential for peace and security in the country and no one would be allowed to take law into his own hands on any pretext. The president also urged the religious leaders to advise the government how best to prevent the misuse of the blasphemy law.

On Saturday, hundreds of angry protesters turned into arsonists, attacking around 160 houses and 80 shops of Christians, just a day after allegations of blasphemy were levelled against a man in the Badami Bagh area. Several policemen, including SSP (Operations) Suhail Sukhera and the Badami Bagh SHO received multiple injuries when the angry mob pelted stones on them during a clash. The Saint Joseph Colony and its surrounding areas turned into a battlefield when angry protesters started torching the houses and shops.

Upon being informed about the incident, police contingents and rescue teams reached the spot and tried to control the situation. According to witnesses, the mob broke into the houses, looted them and burnt the remaining belongings in the streets. They said that on Friday, a large number of protesters forced the Christian community members to flee the area.

End.

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