Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Anwar on Monday alleged investigators had found links to a foreign conspiracy behind the mob violence targeting the Christian communities in Jaranwala and Sargodha, adding that it appeared to be attempt to downplay the ill-treatment of Christians in India.
Addressing a press conference in Lahore alongside Faisalabad Regional Police Officer (RPO) Abid Khan; City Police Officer (CPO) Usman Akram Gondal; and Sargodha RPO Shariq Kamal Siddique and District Police Officer (DPO) Faisal Gulzar, he claimed “hostile agencies” had plotted to divert attention from persecution of minorities in a neighboring country by fomenting unrest in Pakistan. While he did not specifically name India, all the examples he provided were from the rival nation, indicating the “conspiracy” was hatched in Delhi.
Among the examples cited by Anwar were news reports on the mistreatment of Christian women in India’s Manipur; as well as a resolution of the European Union against injustices and violent incidents against Muslims and other minorities in India.
According to the IGP, a police investigation had found both suspects arrested in the Sargodha blasphemy case had links with hostile agencies. “We found the evidence from their mobile phones. The suspects, after committing the horrible offense of blasphemy, had challenged the local community to avenge it,” he claimed, adding police had made hectic efforts to trace the suspects.
“Police officers engaged the community as well religious scholars to maintain peace,” he said. “First of all, they searched and pointed out places where Muslim religious books were published followed by where these were sold. Police collected videos of the people who had visited both places. This involved a tedious job. The investigation officers pointed out the suspects and finally arrested them,” he said, adding 2,500 policemen in plainclothes had been involved in arrested the accused.
Anwar said the Sargodha RPO had personally investigated the suspects and found traces of their contacts with hostile agencies. He further said police had arrested 180 suspects involved in the Jaranwala incident, including three primes suspects, using geo-fencing, CCTV monitoring, polygraph test, artificial intelligence, human intelligence and other scientific techniques.
The IGP said Muslims could never tolerate any disrespect to Islam’s Prophet (PBUH), the holy Quran or any religious places. However, he stressed, Islam does not allow anyone to take the law into their own hands and attack minorities. Exhorting people to not become complicit in the “enemy’s conspiracy,” he said such attempts should be thwarted strategically. He claimed such incidents would not happen again, as police had established Meesaq Centers across Punjab to deal with them. He also reiterated his resolve to bring all suspects involved in the Sargodha and Jaranwala incidents to justice.
Anwar also appreciated the role of police, Aman Committee members and the local community in controlling the situations in Sargodha and Jaranwala and restoring peace. He claimed the government had not only helped provided financial compensation to victims, but also started rehabilitation work. Rubbishing the view that minorities were under threat in Pakistan, he said Muslims had offered their own houses to Christians for protection in Jaranwala. Stressing individual acts could not tarnish entire communities, he noted that a bombing by a Muslim did not suggest all Muslims were complicit.