LAHORE - The Punjab Assembly was told on Monday that a prayer leader at a mosque in Dhoop Sarri area of Lahore incited violence against Christians after the alleged sacrilege of the holy Quran pages by a sweeper belonging to the minority community.

While responding to a point of order by a treasury member, Shahzad Monshi, Punjab Home Minister Col (r) Shuja Khanzada informed the house that some people reported the incident to a prayer leader at a local mosque who, in turn, made an announcement on the loudspeaker about the happening.

The minister further stated that people gathered on the prayer leader’s call to express their anger over the incident. The police and the rangers reached the spot to avoid any law and order situation, he added.

The home minister said the situation was under control at the moment, but it might aggravate any time if corrective measures were not taken. He sought suggestions from the house to promote inter-faith harmony to avert future incidents of violence involving the two communities.

“I had meetings with ulema to seek their help to resolve this issue,” the minister said, adding the provincial legislature could also play a constructive role to create inter-faith harmony.

Earlier, speaking on a point order, Shahzad Monshi, a minority MPA, argued that in the presence of a law to punish blasphemers, there was no justification for the mob to take the law into their hands. He demanded an effective legislation against those who resort to violence after such incidents.

He moaned that Christians were being forced to migrate after repeated incidents of violence against them.

“What is the point in punishing the entire community for the sin committed by one person only?” he questioned.

Monshi informed the house that the mob tried to set a church and the houses of Christians on fire after the incident but timely action by the law-enforcement agencies averted a possible untoward happening.

The home minister assured the Christian member that the government would conduct an impartial investigation into the matter. He was also told that law already existed to punish those taking the law into their hands.  

It was an eventful day in the Punjab Assembly on Monday which also witnessed a brawl between two Niazis sitting close to each other, but on opposite benches. Inamullah Niazi of Mianwali and Abdul Majeed Niazi of Layya belong to the same clan, but represent two different political parties in the assembly. The former belongs to the PML-N and the latter has his affiliation with the PTI. The trouble started on a trivial issue, but ended up in a severe clash as the two legislators lost their temper and called names.

It happened during the question hour when some members on the opposition benches asked the speaker that they were having trouble in listening to the parliamentary secretary who was answering the questions. The chair changed his seat asking him to sit close to the opposition benches. Waheed Gul of the PML-N remarked that PTI people were unduly bothering the parliamentary secretary. “I would change your seat if you don’t sit quiet,” the speaker warned.

Meanwhile, Majeed Niazi intervened and took a jibe at Inamullah Niazi who recently switched loyalties from the PTI to the PML-N. It was like a red rag to a bull. The Niazi from Mianwali advanced towards Majeed hurling abuses on him. They exchanged barbs in their mother tongue, Saraiki, widely spoken in their areas. Punjab Minister Nadeen Kamran and other legislators intervened and averted a possible freestyle wrestling between the two.

Though less in intensity, a similar situation was witnessed during debate on law and order. PTI’s Aslam Iqbal and PML-N’s Zaeem Qadri clashed over the former’s remarks about poor law and order situation in the province.

The house also passed a bill for the establishment of Fatima Jinnah Medical University in Lahore. The medical university would be set up through reconstitution and upgrade of the existing Fatima Jinnah Medial College by giving it the status of awarding a medical degree.  

In the statement of objects and reasons given at the end of the draft bill, it has been mentioned that since there is no public-sector medical university in Punjab, it had been a longstanding demand of medical students and the faculty of Fatima Jinnah Medical College to give it the status of a university.  

The opposition withdrew its six amendments and addition of seven new clauses to be incorporated into the bill after a compromise reached with the treasury on the condition that the latter would allow the debate on law and order first before completion of the legislation.