In an important development on the Gojra violence against a Christian community an anti-terrorist court has taken action and the judge sent 61 accused of the incident on judicial remand and six others were granted 14 days physical remand (that is, sent to jail).
The developments are still ongoing, the case is still pending, and there is talk of political motivations. Tension in the region, which was already high, has gone higher. But the fact that the court has taken criminal action against those who carried out such violence – murder and arson – is a good sign. The investigation of whether anyone had, in fact, desecrated the Quran still needs to be completed, but the fact that mob violence has been seen as exactly that – no matter what the cause – and is being dealt with by the court is a positive sign.
Emerging details, as reported in Dawn:
An anti-terrorism court judge sent 61 accused of the Gojra incident on judicial remand and granted 14 days physical remand of six others here on Friday. The Gojra Sadar police produced 48 accused in the court and sought physical remand of six for 20 days for seizure of weapons and looted belongings of Christians. However, the court granted 14 days remand and sent 42 accused on judicial remand.
The police are investigating the incident of Korian village in which scores of houses were set on fire by a mob on July 30 when they were informed that a few Christians had desecrated the Holy Quran. Gojra police produced 19 accused nominated in the supplementary statement. The police are still clueless about the accused named in the FIR who torched Christianâ€™s homes in Gojra city on Saturday. Resultantly, seven people were burnt alive.
Meanwhile, some PML-N leaders of Gojra have condemned the arrests saying that those who have been implicated in the case (including politicians) are actually ‘peacemakers’ who tried to convince the Muslims to avoid the attack on Christians. At a press conference in Toba Tek Singh on Friday, they said that who instigated the people against Christians were enjoying immunity. The nominated accused in the FIR include politicians Malik Qadeer Awan, a PML-N city president and Jamaat-i-Islami (Gojra) leader Rehmatullah Arshad, who remained busy in making announcements in mosques to urge the citizens not to let loose their ire against Christians. They alleged that Awan had been made an accused in the FIR on the pressure of a former MNA of Gojra.
They said when the desecration of the Holy Quran took place at Chak 95-JB, the police arrested chief suspect Talib Masih but he was later released on the pressure of the MNA. The public got provoked on seeing Talib roaming around in the village and torched more than 100 houses, they said. Another reason that fanned the flame of Gojra violence was the shortage of policemen due to which Christians shot at and injured 13 Muslims (who are still under treatment), provoking the majority to retaliate. They demanded immediate withdrawal of a case against Qadeer Awan. Meanwhile, religious scholars hit out at the Gojra police for arresting hundreds of Muslims on the charges of involvement in Gojra violence. They took Friday sermons as an opportunity to vent their feelings, accusing the police of abusing power and trampling the sanctity of households during raids. They said the police had taken possession of hundreds of mobile phone sets and licenced arms during raids and detained scores of people at unknown places, inflicting physical and mental scars on them. They demanded immediate arrest of those who desecrated the Quran. The civil society in Gojra and Toba Tek Singh tehsils has planned to organise a solidarity conference to promote peace and harmony on Saturday (today) at Gojra bar room.
INQUIRY: Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman of the Lahore High Court recorded statements of 20 Christians on the second day of proceedings in the additional district and sessions judgeâ€™s court.
SECTION 144: District Nazim Chaudhry Abdul Sattar on Friday imposed Section 144 all over the district, barring assembly of five or more persons at a place. The order will remain operative till further instructions.
One hopes (but one does not hold one’s breath on it) that this will not be politicized any further. Right now, that seems unlikely, if not impossible.
One also hopes (but, again, one does not hold one’s breath on it) that the focus that has emerged from this horrific incident will make us all – including the courts, the parliament, the politicians and the citizenry – think hard and deep about the of the draconian laws and systems we have created. These laws bring out the worst tendencies in society and then allow the unjustifiable to be justified.
Unless a major national rethink happens on these issues, only worse will follow.