Blasphemy Allegation Rule out, Men that Ransacked a Factory Were Drunk
LAHORE: Member of Punjab Assembly Mehar Muhammad Faiz claimed on Sunday that men who torched a chipboard factory in Jehlum were under the influence of alcohol and were only there to steal valuables.
Mehar Muhammad Fiaz, a ruling party member of the Punjab Assembly, was sent to the spot by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif when the riots broke out in Jhelum on November 20. A mob had attacked Pakistan Chipboard Factory after accusing its security officer of burning pages of the Holy Quran.
The lawmaker, who witnessed the tragic events unfold, said some of the 30 attackers, who initially ransacked the factory, were under the influence of alcohol. “When I reached the spot, most of them smelt of liquor,” Mehar told media. “Though it had nothing to do with religion, they stormed the factory on the excuse of blasphemy allegations.”
The attackers were followed by a violent mob consisting of people from the adjoining villages, including Rathian, Kala Gujran, Dhok Abdullah, Kashmir Colony and Langarpur. “They did not damage any valuables. Instead they took them away in an organised way,” the PML-N leader said.
The mob frightened the workers by threatening to burn down the factory and went on a looting spree. They only vandalised the place after taking away every usable item. “They did not even leave a spoon in the factory and in the houses of Ahmadi families adjacent to the factory,” Mehar said.
The mob, he said, wanted the factory management to hand over the owner to them. “I kept them engaged for more than three hours. Then the police arrived and managed to evacuate the factory workers,” the lawmaker said.
Mehar termed the incident ‘unfortunate’, as the blasphemy accused had already been arrested. The mob went on the rampage after his arrest. He also blamed the inefficiency of the law enforcement agencies for the next day’s attack on the worship place of Ahmadiyya community in Jhelum.
Only when the military personnel arrived around 12:30am, the mob retreated. Most of them left the place, but by then the factory had been burnt to ashes.
DSP Malik Adnan, who was injured while rescuing factory workers, said that he was leading a police party of 25 men against thousands of attackers. Four separate cases have been registered against the attackers under the Anti-Terrorism Act and 54 suspects are on a 10-day physical remand for interrogation.
The son of the factory’s security in-charge, who is in police custody over blasphemy allegations, also questioned the attackers’ motives. His father is a retired army subedar and has been working at the factory since 2007.
The attackers claim to have recovered a half-burnt page of the Holy Quran from the factory boiler. “It is impossible. How can they recover a half-burnt page from a boiler running at over 200 degrees Celsius?”
He added the allegations were fabricated as the alleged burning incident took place between 6am and 8am, and the mob attacked the factory at 8pm.
Some nine days after the incident, police are still deployed at the factory. Inside the few houses ransacked adjacent to the factory, locks of iron trunks and cupboards can be seen broken. Doors have been dismantled and sanitary fittings taken away. Signs of fire are prominent on the walls blackened with smoke.
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