FAISALABAD: Muslims and Christians clashed for hours in Warispura and Dawoodnagar neighbourhoods of Faisalabad following the killing of two Christian brothers accused of blasphemy outside the district courts on Monday.
Pastor Rashid Emmanuel and his brother Sajid Emmanuel were shot dead by an unidentified person on Monday as they left the court of Magistrate Tariq Habib accompanied by inspector Muhammad Hussain who was critically injured.
“Both brothers were rushed to hospital where they were pronounced dead,” said police official Amanullah Khan.
Doctor Rana Bashir of the Allied Hospital confirmed the deaths and said the wounded police officer was undergoing a surgery.
On July 2, people accusing the two brothers of distributing pamphlets containing blasphemous material at the general bus stand and took them to the Civil Lines police station, where an FIR was filed against them. They were taken into custody.
The brothers’ supporters, however, claim that the charges were fabricated. James Aftab, a senior church official in Faisalabad, said the men had been “implicated in a fake case” while Atif Jamil Pagaan, a spokesperson for the Pakistan Minorities Democratic Foundation, also said the men had been set up.
“The charges levelled against them were false as no evidence has been brought and no witness presented,” he said, adding that the pamphlets were handwritten and photocopied, and anonymously distributed with the brothers’ contact details.
Following the killings, rumours spread that angry Christians have set two houses belonging to Muslims on fire. This was also announced from mosques and as a result at around 6:30 pm groups of men from around Faisalabad started gathering in Warispura and Dawoodnagar, predominantly Christian neighbourhoods, and the latter the home of the slain brothers. Warispura also has a big church, called the Main Church of Warispura. However, the police, anticipating rioting, had already surrounded the neighbourhoods and tried to disperse the crowd by baton charging and teargas shelling. Around seven to eight groups of 100 to 150 people had gathered in the area.
Meanwhile, Christians and Muslims attacked each other with stones and five people, including two policemen, were injured.
In a bid to bring the situation under control, Commissioner Faisalabad Tahir Hussain, and RPO Faisalabad Aftab Cheema, held a meeting with members of Christian and Muslim organisations. The meeting, initially held indoors, was later carried out on the road in full view of the demonstrators, following which the delegations tried to dispel rumours that houses had been burnt and urged people to leave the area.
Former MNA from the area, Mian Abdul Manan, also tried to calm the rioters. Around 11:30 pm, rioters started leaving though police and city officials remained in the area.
To ensure peace over the next few days, Section 144 has been imposed in the district by the DCO which makes gatherings of more than four persons illegal. Religious leaders from both sides have also agreed not to indulge in hate speeches or taking the law into their hands.
Meanwhile, SSP Investigations Faisalabad Rana Ahsan and DSP Civil Lines Ashiq Hussain have been suspended for negligence by IG Punjab.
Till the filing of the report, FIR against the killer had not been filed. According to sources, the police deliberately delayed filing the report so that the post mortem would be deferred till morning by which time the situation might be calmer.