LAHORE – The city police on Friday issued a list of seven “most wanted” suspected involved in the Saturday’s arson attack on the Joseph Colony in the Christian neighborhood, urging the public to disclose whereabouts of the men to the police.
Investigators believed that the suspects wanted to the police, led the demonstration to do the mob justice in the Badami Bagh area.
“We humbly request the media outlets to please print the photographs of the seven most wanted people so that the public could alert the police in case they notice the whereabouts of the accused persons anywhere,” a spokesman of the Lahore police said in a written statement on Friday.
Dozens of homes of the Christians were torched and their belongings including motorcycles and rickshaw were set on fire as thousands of highly-charged men stormed the Joseph Colony following an alleged incident of blasphemy.
The police have identified five of the seven most-wanted accused persons as Mian Muhammad Saleem, Usman Butt, Bao Sajjad Hussain, Haji Chaudhry Shabbir Ali, and Haji Chaudhry Tariq Mahmood. However, the police could not establish the identity of two of the most wanted men.
Police sources revealed that the most-wanted men went underground soon after the police begin raids across the City to arrest those who had incited, masterminded, and executed the assault, which brought bad name to the entire nation.
Punjab CM Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif replaced SSP (Operations) Sohail Akhtar Sukhera and SP (City) Multan Khan from their posts for showing negligence hours after the mob went on the rampage in the minority’s neighbourhood.
A day earlier, the provincial government also removed DIG Amjad Javed Saleemi from the post of Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) on the charges of poor command and negligence.
The police are conducting wild raids to arrest the accused persons as the provincial government and the Supreme Court of Pakistan came hard on the law enforcing agency.
Earlier, the police said that they had detained dozens of men and more than 20 accused, out of the total 47 arrested, had been jailed.
On Monday, the traders and shopkeepers went on shutter-down strike in Badami Bagh and adjoining Misri Shah areas to protest against the police raids.
The businessmen alleged that the police were raiding their workplaces just to hide their own negligence. They claimed that the police, instead of arresting the real accused, were capturing the innocent traders. Police claimed many of the troublemakers who did the mob justice belonged to the same area and according to the video recordings, the suspects could be identified.
Officials said on Friday that a permanent police post was established at the Joseph Colony to ensure round-the-clock security of the residents. A police officer of Sub Inspector rank was posted as In-charge of the Joseph Colony police post, where at least 20 other policemen are also deployed to maintain law and order situation.
The residents of the Joseph Colony have expressed their satisfaction and lauded the government for establishing the police post to protect the lives and properties of the locals.
The unfortunate incident of Joseph Colony brought collective shame and embarrassment for the entire Pakistani nation, say political pundits and religious leaders.
Though the incident was denounced and openly condemned by the entire nation, they said, the blasphemous allegations must be substantiated with evidence, if true, and the narratives linking the land-grabbing motives, if any, must also be investigated. “There is a need for the religious scholars to come forward and play their role to make people understand that Islam is a religion of humanity and it preaches tolerance, peace, and mutual co-existence of all sects and communities,” Ata Muhammad, a prayer leader said.
Security experts suggested that in such cases the involvement of terrorist organizations like LeJ, TTP, and BLA having links with AI-Qaeda must also be investigated and denounced assertively.
“The entire nation stands firm with the Christian community. The real perpetrators must be unmasked and brought to justice. The causes of triggering the violent incident must be established and truth brought to the notice of public,” a former Inspector General of the Police said, requesting his name not to be mentioned.