Members of the Christian minority hols placards showing picture of founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah quoting him in Urdu 'Pakistani citizen of any religion should have freedom to practice their own religion' as they shout slogans during a protest against mob attacks that erupted the day before in Jaranwala, near Faisalabad, in Peshawar, Pakistan, 17 August 2023. EFE-EPA/RAHAT DAR

2 arrested for Quran desecration that sparked attacks on Pakistani churches

Islamabad, Aug 18 (EFE).- Pakistani police arrested two Christian men on Friday for alleged desecration of the Muslim holy book in a blasphemous act that led to attacks on several churches in the eastern Punjab province.

People survey a burt out church after mobs burn Christian churches and homes after blasphemy allegations in Jaranwala, near Faisalabad, Pakistan, 16 August 2023. EFE-EPA/ILYAS SHEIKH

Additionally, the police arrested at least 17 more suspects for vandalism and the burning of churches and homes belonging to Christians in the eastern city of Jaranwala in the Punjab province.

The violence erupted after the alleged desecration of the Quran on Wednesday.

The two Christian men are said to have written derogatory remarks on certain pages of the holy book, an action that falls under the country’s anti-blasphemy law.

“The Christians accused of committing blasphemy have been arrested,” police spokesperson Naveed Ahmed in Punjab’s Faisalabad district told EFE.

The officer said that, with the arrest of 17 more suspects, the total number of those detained for vandalism and the destruction of churches and houses has now reached 145.

In response to the violence, the government deployed paramilitary troopers to guard churches and the minority settlement in the town.

Interim Prime Minister Anwar ul Haq Kakar stated on Friday that the country must protect minorities at all costs.

“There won’t be any favor. There won’t be any fear,” he said in his first cabinet meeting telecast live.

The prime minister acknowledged that fringe groups might attempt to harm minorities but emphasized that the state and society would respond firmly.

Meanwhile, the Punjab government encouraged Muslim clerics to address the rights of minorities in their Friday sermons.

“Today, Friday’s sermons across Punjab will focus on the rights of minorities, teachings from the holy Quran and Prophet Muhammad,” Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi wrote on social media platform X, previously called Twitter.

Pakistani controversial blasphemy law carries the death penalty, although no executions have taken place, despite several arrests in the past.

Critiques of the law or blasphemy allegations can result in torture or mob lynching of the accused.