FACT Report on Jaranwala Mob Attack: Wednesday 16th August 2023:

The alleged blasphemy act took place in Jaranwala, a small town in the industrial district of Faisalabad, on Wednesday, August 16th, 2023. According to the facts at around 5am two women walking around Cinema Chowk (main road) came across torn pages of the Holy Quran near the Christian Colony, there was a picture of Rocky Masih with his father Saleem Masih attached to the torn pages of the Holy Quran that had been crossed out with the red pen and there were blasphemous content written on the torn pages with Rocky and his brother named Raja Masih’s National Identity card numbers, their phone numbers and their names. The two women gathered a crowd of local Muslim residents who at 05:30 AM approached Rocky and Raja Masih’s house and found them sleeping. Both brothers denied of any wrongdoing and claimed that they were innocent. With the intervention of some Christian residents, it was decided to discuss the matter with the local Peace Committee and Muslim clerics. By 06:00 am the local Muslim and Christian residents amicably reached a decision that the two Christian brothers were innocent and they were being framed, after this the crowd was dispersed.

Around 06:35 am leaders of a Muslim religious party and some local Muslim residents approached the local police station and insisted that an FIR (first information report) be lodged against the two brothers. By 7 AM an FIR (First Information Report) no. 1258/23 was registered in the City police station Jaranwala on the complaint of Muhammad Afzal, Noor Hussain, and Muhammad Toheed; under section 295B (defiling of the Holy Quran) and 295C (writing derogatory remarks against the Holy Prophet PBUH) of the Pakistan Penal Code against Rocky Masih and Raja Masih. After the registration of the case, police set up various teams for the arrest of the two brothers who were declared absconders.

Subsequently, Superintendent of Police (SP) Bilal Sulehri held a meeting with representatives of the hard-line Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and the local peace committee in a bid to defuse the situation. A deal was said to have been reached between Sulehri and the religious leaders, with the latter agreeing to wait for the police to arrest the accused and not take any reactive action to disturb law and order in the area.

At 08:15 am the news of the desecration of the Holy Quran by two Christian brothers spread around the entire city and people started gathering around the Christian colony. By 09:00 am announcements from the adjacent Mahtab Mosque and surrounding mosques were being made riling up faithful Muslims to reach the site of the alleged blasphemy incident to take action against the blasphemers. A large number of people started gathering around the Christian colony, they came on trolleys and large vehicles. This crowd forced the closure of local businesses and shops in the area. The Christian residents sensed the danger and started evicting their houses. By 09:00 am majority of the Christians fled from their homes including the two brothers and their family in fear. At 10 am a large angry mob of more than two thousand men including minor boys broke into the Christian houses, destroying the furniture and setting the houses and Churches on fire. The charged crowd was armed with iron rods, axes, staff, and chemical and petrol bombs.

According to the eyewitnesses, the crowd was chanting slogans of a radical Muslim organization TLP (Tehreek-e-Labbaik) who was the major force behind the mass mobilization. According to the FIR (First Information Report),

a mob of 500 to 600 individuals, armed with petrol bottles, rods, and sticks, was led by Asif Ullah Shah Bukhari, a leader of the TLP. This mob congregated in front of the mosque before launching its assault on the nearby Christian colony and the Catholic Church situated within it.

A section of the crowd was also led by Mufti Muhammad Younas a leader of another Islamic political group called “Ahle Sunnat”. The eyewitnesses saw hundreds, if not thousands, traveling towards the epicenter of the unrest. From motorcyclists to passengers in buses, trucks, and Lorries, a vast array of transportation means was utilized as they all converged on the city with a shared purpose.

Remarkably, these groups, though arising from various locations, displayed a striking unanimity in their actions. As they advanced toward the town, they methodically sought out and targeted churches in every village they passed, no matter how small or densely located. These sanctuaries were first raided for valuables. After the plunder, they desecrated crosses, burned Bibles, destroyed musical instruments, and wrecked furniture.

In a parallel distressing incident at the Salvation Army Church in village 61, the mob didn’t just resort to brute force; they came prepared with a crane. They used it to demolish the church wall and then proceeded to set the church ablaze. Similarly, the Christian houses were first looted and then set on fire. During the turmoil, the police presence was notably absent, especially in the villages. In the few areas where they were on site, they often stood by passively. Some officers even pleaded with the attackers, urging them not to usurp law and order, while simultaneously assuring the mob that they shared their outrage and would ensure the culprits faced justice. With the police’s inability to contain the protesters, the situation escalated to the point where the Rangers, a paramilitary force, had to be summoned. They arrived late into the night.

While hundreds of Muslims participated in the attacks and arson against Christian properties, there were pockets of resistance where neighboring Muslims rose to the defense of their Christian counterparts. In village Pathan; for instance, the entire Muslim population of the village united to repel the attacking mob, ultimately forcing them to retreat. Similarly, in the Christian colony, houses on one street were spared thanks to intervention from Shiite Muslims who blocked the entrances into the Christian houses.

The two alleged brothers along with their father, mother, wife of Rocky Masih, and their five-month-old son managed to reach the CLAAS office late at night seeking shelter and legal assistance. They were navigated a Christian Lawyer Kamran Yousaf who was aware of CLAAS work for blasphemy survivors. The two brothers confided to the CLAAS legal team that both of them were illiterate and could not read or write, they claimed that were innocent and had been fabricated into this case for personal vengeance by someone.

Both brothers showed their willingness to present themselves for investigation but only in the presence of CLAAS lawyers. CLAAS legal team spent the whole night getting in contact with the right police officials to discuss the matter.

Thursday 17th August 2023:

At 11 am CLAAS lawyer and Legal department staff were able to meet with the Punjab Inspector General Police Dr. Usman Anwar and Deputy Inspector General Operation Mr. Waqar. CLAAS team was assured by the high police officials that no physical harm would come to the alleged accused and stated that they too believe that the two Christian brothers have been framed in this case. A team of high police officers led by SSP Operations (Senior Superintendent of Police) Muhammad Shoaib came to the CLAAS office. They met with the National Director CLAAS Mr. Joseph Francis, who again stressed the safety and security of the brothers while in police custody. The Police Officers assured that the accused will not be harmed while in custody and will be sent to judicial lockup (prison) without any delay. At 2:30 pm the SSP took the custody of Raja and Rocky Masih.

Friday 18th August, 2023:

CLAAS field staff visited the affected Christian colony in Jaranwala to meet with the survivors, collect facts, and assess the situation and the damage incurred as a result of the mob attack. According to the fact-finding report

• 25 churches of different denominations were burnt down.

• In village 238, the mob first ransacked a Presbyterian church and then the Alice High School about 100 meters away. Before setting fire to any furniture in the school, the mob first looted it of all valuables. Notably, this school, operated by Christians, offers education to 200 students from both the Christian and Muslim communities.

• The Christian population of 20,000 living in most affected areas Christian Colony (Cinema Chowk), Eisa Nagri, village 127GB, Village 126GB, Nasrali, Sheruana, Farooqabad, village 240GB, Maharanwala, village 238GB and Mohallah Camp.

• 89 Christian houses were completely burnt down

• 400 houses of Christians were looted and damaged

• 26 motorbikes of Christian residents were burnt down

• Many survivors reported that their water tanks were emptied by the assailants before setting their houses on fire

• Hundreds of women and children hid in nearby sugarcane fields until two in the morning without food, shelter, or water

• Majority of the residents said that they have sent their young daughters to their relatives in other parts of the city as they do not feel safe to bring them home.