A day after several churches were attacked and Christian homes ransacked by an enraged mob in Jaranwala tehsil of Faisalabad – following the desecration of the Holy Quran – the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) on Thursday arrested “both main suspects” allegedly involved in the sacrilegious act and shifted them to an undisclosed location.
Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi confirmed the development on social media.
“Major breakthrough in the Jaranwala Incident – both main accused now in CTD Custody. Appreciation for Chief Secretary Punjab and IG Punjab for their relentless efforts,” Naqvi said on his X (formerly Twitter) account.
“Prime Minister’s unwavering concern guided us, driving the swift arrest process. Grateful for the trust he placed in our team, fueling record-time arrests,” he added.
The accused were identified as Raja Saleem Masih and Rocky Masih.
Earlier, while presiding over a meeting to review the law and order situation, the chief minister regretted the occurrence of the Jaranwala incident, saying that it was a “planned conspiracy” to “light fire in the country and sabotage its peace”.
He announced that the Punjab government would restore all the churches and homes vandalised in the incident in 3-4 days and noted that such incidents were against Islam.
At least four churches and a dozen houses and shops were burned and ransacked, their broken contents strewn across the streets, an AFP team present at the scene said.
Muslims living in the predominantly Christian area gave shelter to their neighbours and pinned Quranic verses to the doors of Christian homes to prevent them from being targeted, residents of both faiths told AFP.
“All the Christians have left their homes and taken refuge here and there,” Fayaz Masih Khokhar, a Christian man who had travelled from nearby Lahore to show solidarity with the community said.
As a tense calm prevailed in Jaranwala, Rangers took control of the area and arrested more than 150 people. All government and private institutions, including business and commercial centres remain closed on Thursday.
The troops cordoned off the Christian colony, blocking all entry and exit points.
The authorities imposed Section 144 in Jaranwala for seven days under which holding of processions, public gatherings and rallies will be banned, and made Assistant Commissioner Shaukat Masih Sandhu OSD while suspending City Police Station SHO Mansoor Sadiq for failing to maintain law and order.
Police were deployed around worship places and residential localities of the minorities.
(With input from agencies)