Lahore arson: CJ says Punjab police failed to conduct honest, thorough probe
Source: Dawn, 18 March 2013
The Supreme Court on Monday declared that the Punjab Police had “failed to conduct an honest and through investigation” into the Badami Bagh incident in which over 100 houses of Christian community were ransacked and set alight by a charged mob (of PMLN-ASWJ activists) over an alleged blasphemy incident.
A three member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, heard the case over the arson attack in a Christian neighbourhood in Lahore.
The court adjourned the hearing to March 25 on assurance by new CCPO Lahore Muhammad Amlish who vowed before the bench that he would uncover the truth.
Earlier today, the court had rejected Punjab government’s report on the incident .
Expressing deep frustration and anguish, the chief justice expressed the intention to take over the investigation.
Shocked and dismayed over the contents of the First Information Report (FIR) read out by the SSP investigation, Chief Justice Iftikhar remarked: “It seems that now the courts will have to take charge of investigations also.”
He said although no lives were lost in the incident, the police had failed to protect the “property and dignity” of the residents of Joshep Colony.
“This incident has caused an element of trauma that will keep on lingering in the minds of minority Christians living across Pakistan,” Justice Gulzar Ahmed said.
پاکستان کی سپریم کورٹ کے چیف جسٹس افتخار محمد چوہدری نے جوزف کالونی کے حوالے سے صوبہ پنجاب کے قائم مقام آئی جی کی طرف سے جمع کردہ رپورٹ کو مسترد کردیا اور سی سی پی او لاہور کو خود تحقیقات کرنے کا حکم دیا۔
چیف جسٹس افتخار محمد چوہدری نے یہ حکم لاہور کی مسیحی بستی جوزف کالونی پر ہجوم کے حملے کے واقعے کے متعلق ازخود نوٹس کی آج یعنی پیر کو دوبارہ سماعت کے دوران دیا۔
جوزف کالونی کے از خود نوٹس کیس کی سماعت چیف جسٹس افتخار محمد چوہدری کی سربراہی میں تین رکنی بنچ کی۔
سماعت کے دوران صوبہ پنجاب کے قائم مقام آئی جی پولیس خان بیگ نے جوزف کالونی واقعہ کے متعلق رپورٹ عدالت میں جمعہ کرا دی جسے چیف جسٹس افتخار محمد چوہدری نے مسترد کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ اس میں نہ تو حقائق ہیں اور نہ ذمہ دار افراد کا تعین کیا گیا ہے۔ ہمارے نمائندے کے مطابق آئی جی نے اپنے رپورٹ میں کہا کہ انہوں نے بندوں کو پکڑا ہے جس کے ِخلاف انسدادِ دہشت گردی کے دفعات کے تحت عدالتوں میں مقدمات زیرِ سماعت ہیں۔
چیف جسٹس افتخار محمد چوہدری نے آئی جی کو کہا کہ آپ کو اس واقعے کے ہونے کے متعلق دو دن پہلے اطلاع دی گئی تھی۔
آئی جی پنجاب کا موقف تھا کہ یہ واقعہ کوئی باقاعدہ منصوبہ بندی کے تحت نہیں کیا گیا تھا۔ چیف جسٹس نے آئی جی پنجاب کو مخاطب کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ اگر آپ ایک لاہور شہر کو سنبھال سکتے تو پورے صوبے کو کیسے سنبھالیں گے۔ عدالت نے لاہور کے سی سی پی او کو خود اس واقعے کی تحقیقات کرنے کا حکم دیا ہے۔
According to the Lahore police sources, their investigations showed that neither any political party nor any PML-N leader had conspired to burn the Christians’ houses to grab their land. The police circles added that they had yet to establish the involvement of any religious or sectarian party in the arson attacks, including the SSP and Jamaat-ul Daawa, as being alleged by the Christians.
The Gojra police had registered a murder case against 72 people under sections 462, 302, 380, 354, 295B, 149, 148 and 7ATA. The FIR also carried the names of the city president of Toba Tek Singh Abdul Qadeer Awan and several leaders of the SSP (which is already renamed as Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat) including Maulana Abdul Khaliq, Qari Abidur Rehman Shah and Hafiz Muhammad Imran.
A year before the Gojra calamity, the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat had struck an electoral deal with the PML-N after which it had withdrawn its candidate in favour of Shehbaz Sharif in the June 2008 by-election from PP-48 Bhakkar to ensure his unopposed victory.
Shahbaz, who could not take part in the February 2008 elections after being disqualified by the Lahore High Court, eventually became the provincial chief executive on June 8, 2008 following the withdrawal of Maulana Abdul Hameed Khalid, the president of the Bhakar chapter of the ASWJ.
Coming back to the Gojra riots, a fact-finding mission of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had observed in its inquiry report that they were not a spontaneous reaction to blasphemy allegation but were planned in advance by fanatics belonging to the Sipah-e-Sahaba, a majority of whom had come from Jhang.
The HRCP mission had declared: “The Gojra episode is a comprehensive failure of the Punjab government to protect minorities either through administrative measures or legislative ones. The local administration’s inaction ahead of the riots was intriguing. The culprits, including the local administration, must be brought to justice in a speedy and transparent manner. The Punjab government must act to prevent any further attacks in future, which are based on a person’s faith, instead of belatedly reacting through award of compensation. It must also ensure that its vows of ensuring interfaith harmony move beyond rhetoric”.
The anti-Christian violence in Lahore where 100-plus houses and shops were ransacked, looted and finally set ablaze by a group of fanatics has further blemished the already depressing record of the PML-N government which has mostly failed to protect members of the minority communities from the wrath of the extremists and terrorists.
According to careful estimates, during the five-year tenure of Shahbaz Sharif as chief minister of Punjab, over 200 Ahmadis, Christians and Shias were killed in the province in hate-drive attacks, with some of the horrific attacks targeting the minority communities taking place in Lahore. In an almost similar incident, hundreds of hooligans belonging to the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) attacked a Christians’ locality in Gojra city on July 31, 2009 and burnt alive eight members of a family besides setting ablaze over 100 houses. The failure of the Punjab government to prosecute any of the 70 accused held responsible for the gory incident had compelled the family head to leave Pakistan after the Punjab police failed to arrest the culprits who were hurling death threats to him for pursuing the case.
Three-and-a-half years after the August 2009 bloody anti-Christians riots in Gojra in which eight members of the minority community were burnt alive and over 100 houses set on fire by religious fanatics, the Punjab government is unwilling to reveal the findings of the Gojra judicial tribunal.
Its report was submitted to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in October 2009, seeking an immediate implementation of the recommendations.