LAHORE - Lahore police are under immense pressure to release some ‘members’ of the Christian community, who are identified as key suspects with regard to the lynching of two men in Youhanabad. Apart from many non-government organizations (NGOs) and Christian leaders, some parliamentarians have also warned the police hierarchy to release all the suspects otherwise they would launch protest campaign against the government.

Police have detained at least 28 suspects in connection with the lynching of two men in Youhanabad, as raids are underway to arrest those who are still at large.

“We have arrested at least 28 persons for damaging (public and private) properties and lynching two men following Youhanabad tragedy,” Lahore SSP Investigation Rana Ayaz Saleem told reporters on Sunday. The investigation police chief further said that nobody is allowed to take the law into own hands and all those involved in stoking violence and ransacking properties would be arrested and brought to justice.

Literally, the lynching incident and arrests of the suspects afterwards have put the police investigators into hot water. It would be very difficult for the police to maintain law and order around the Christian locality if the accused are charge-sheeted. And in case, they are released under duress, the hardliners would come to the street in protest against the lynching of two innocent persons.

An angry mob lynched two suspects shortly after Taliban bombers struck two churches in the Christian locality during Sunday mass on March 15, leaving 19 persons dead including policemen. More than 70 people were also wounded in the twin blasts that sparked countrywide protests as angry members of the Christian community went on the rampage, blocked roads, damaged Metro-bus stations, and attacked private vehicles.

A police investigator said that over two dozen Christians have been detained in connection with a criminal case registered with Nishtar Colony police station against 60 unidentified men, who lynched 25-year-old Naeem and 16-year-old Adnan and later set their bodies on fire. After carefully examining the video footage of the incident, the police have identified most of the attackers. The police are conducting raids to arrest those involved in the gruesome killings, he added.

On the other hand, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed serious concern at the Youhanabad Christian community’s complaints of police highhandedness in rounding up people on the suspicion of their involvement with the lynching and burning of two young men. The commission has called upon the law enforcing agencies to conduct their operations, especially those involving search for and arrest of suspects, in a manner that does not aggravate the Christian population’s feelings of insecurity and undue interference with their privacy and liberty.

“The police are being accused of terrorising the population with post-midnight raids on their homes and behaving rudely with the people including women. Over a hundred Christian citizens are allegedly being detained and subjected to third-degree methods without being produced in any court. Many people including shopkeepers are said to have left the area in order to escape harassment,” the statement reads. Several women told HRCP investigators that they had been trying in vain to locate the members of their families who had been picked up by the police, the commission claimed.

A day earlier, the police raided a residential apartment in Faisal Town and arrested two key suspects who were identified as Liaqat Masih and Javed Masih. Police sources said that the police carried out the raids after tracing the mobile phone location of the accused persons. They are shifted to unknown place for further interrogation.

It was also learnt that the police had detained more than 46 suspects in connection with the lynching of two men in Youhanabad. At least 18 persons were released by the police after a brief interrogation. “After identifying the culprits with the help of video footage, the police have initiated legal action against those who were involved in the lynching of two men,” sources added.

The police late on Tuesday arrested another two accused from Gujranwala and Sialkot districts. They are identified as Sohail Johnson and Yousaf Johnson. Earlier, police raided in various parts of the provincial metropolis and took into custody dozens of suspects. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had ordered the authorities to arrest those involved in lynching of two men. A Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted by the provincial government is also probing into the Youhanabad tragedy.

Police sources revealed that some NGOs have warned the police hierarchy to release all the suspects otherwise they would launch protest campaign against the government. The Punjab Assembly had unanimously passed a resolution condemning the twin suicide blasts in Youhanabad. In a resolution, moved by Law Minister Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman, it was stated that the perpetrators behind both incidents would be held accountable for their actions.

Top police officers believed that the police averted another Model Town massacre by observing maximum restraint, as members of the Christian community went on the rampage following two church bombings. Even if the police did not retaliate to calm down the snowballing situation, the protesters have set a negative trend by reacting aggressively in a country bracing for more bomb attacks in the days ahead as threat alerts indicate. The authorities must bring to justice the culprits behind the lynching of two innocent men and also those who masterminded the bombings.