Paramilitary forces deployed to quell communal violence in Pak

Last Updated: Sunday, August 2, 2009 - 17:07

Lahore: Paramilitary troops were on Sunday
deployed in a village in Pakistan`s Punjab province where 10
people were killed in violence between Muslims and Christians
over the alleged desecration of Quran.

Pakistan Rangers personnel took up positions in and
around Azafi Abadi village, also known as Koriaan, where the
situation remained tense, a day after it witnessed communal
clashes.

Persons from the two communities exchanged fire and over
80 homes of Christians were set on fire by mobs.

Despite deployment of the Pakistan Rangers, the
situation in the area remained tense throughout the day as
some Christians refused to bury their dead until police
registered a complaint against those responsible for the
killings and arson.

"We have arrested a number of suspects and exemplary
punishment will be given to those involved in heinous crimes.
This is a crime against humanity," Rana Sanaullah, Law
Minister of Punjab, told reporters.

He said some outlawed religious groups were involved in
the violence but did not name them.

A source in the police department told a news agency that
activists of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba and Sipah-e-Muhammad
were involved in the violence.

"Their armed activists from other parts of Punjab
gathered in Koriaan village," the source said.

Violence erupted in the village, part of Gojra
sub-division of Toba Tek Singh district and located 160 km
from Lahore, when a group of Muslims alleged three Christians
burnt pages of the Quran during a wedding last week.

At least seven Christians – including four women and two
children – were burnt alive. Three others were killed in
police firing yesterday, witnesses said.

Scores were injured in clashes between the two
communities. Mobs also ransacked over 50 homes of Christians
and two churches in the village.

Reports said some local clerics, instead of helping to
calm tempers, instigated people to show their strength against
"infidels".

A public meeting was held by religious parties yesterday
shortly before violent clashes began, reports said.

Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti and
Sanaullah said no Christian was involved in desecrating the
Quran. They held local police responsible for the violence,
saying they did not act in time. They also announced
compensation for the kin of the dead.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Human Liberation
Commission of Pakistan and other minority groups have
condemned the violence and urged the government to protect
Christians and conduct a transparent probe into the incident.

President Asif Ali Zardari directed Bhatti to stay in
the village "till the situation is normalised and the affected
people return to their homes safely," said a statement issued
by presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar.

Babar said the President has taken "serious note" of the
incident and was concerned over "the wrong signals it sent
about our country and society to the international community".

Zardari said no one would be allowed to take the law
into their hands under any circumstances.

Bureau Report



First Published: Sunday, August 2, 2009 - 17:07

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