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25 arrested, over 450 people booked after mob attack on Christians in Pakistan’s Punjab province

NEW DELHI: Over 450 individuals have been charged, and 25 arrested, in Pakistan, under terrorism and other offenses for attacking members of the Christian minority and police officers in Sargodha district, approximately 200 kilometers from Lahore. The incident occurred on Saturday when an angry mob, led by radical Islamist Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) activists, accused Nazir Masih, an elderly Christian, of desecrating a religious book.
The mob surrounded Masih’s residence and shoe factory, setting fire to the factory, nearby shops, and houses, while also brutally torching Masih himself. Timely intervention by a large police contingent saved the lives of Masih and 10 other members of the Christian community.
According to the FIR, the mob pelted stones at police personnel when they attempted to disperse the crowd using baton charges, resulting in injuries to at least 10 policemen, including officers.
“It also brutally torched Masih but timely arrival of a heavy contingent of police saved the life of Masih and 10 other members of the Christian community,” the FIR says.
The police statement said that there was no loss of life in the mob attack and that the situation in the city is now peaceful and under control.
“There was no loss of life in the mob attack. More than 10 police officers and personnel have been injured due to stone pelting by the angry people. The police risked their lives to rescue the families and pulled them out of the crowd. Thanks to the timely action of the police, Sargodha is spared a great tragedy,” the statement said.
Nazir Masih has been transferred to the Combined Military Hospital in Sargodha for treatment, and police have stated that a case will be filed against him if he is found guilty of desecrating the religious book.
Currently, over 2,000 policemen have been deployed in Sargodha Mujahid Colony to maintain law and order. Ifran Gill Masih, a relative of Nazir Masih, stated that his uncle had recently returned from Dubai after four years and was falsely accused of desecration by some people in the locality. The Christian families saved their lives by locking themselves inside their houses during the mob attack. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed serious concern over the situation, stating that the Christian community in Gillwala village is at grave risk to their lives at the hands of charged mobs.
This incident follows a similar attack last year in Jaranwala tehsil, Faisalabad district, where at least 24 churches and over 80 houses belonging to Christians were burnt down by a mob enraged over reports of two Christians desecrating the Quran.
(With inputs from agencies)

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