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Jhelum Rioters Arrested

by AFP
Asif Hassan—AFP

Asif Hassan—AFP

Around 35 people have been taken into custody over last week’s sectarian violence.

Police have arrested up to 35 people over sectarian riots in Jhelum, which reportedly forced members of the minority Ahamdi community to flee their homes, authorities said on Tuesday.

The unrest began Friday when an angry mob in the city torched a factory after one of its employees, a member of the persecuted Ahmadi sect, was accused of committing blasphemy by burning pages of the Quran.

On Saturday, protesters ransacked an Ahmadi mosque in the congested Kala Gujran area of the city and set fire to some Ahmadi homes. “Police have arrested up to 35 people in connection with the violence,” said district police chief Mujahid Akbar.

Akbar said that police were hunting up to 70 other people who incited others and indulged in violence. Paramilitary Rangers were called in to quell the violence and remain deployed in the area, he added.

According to local councilor Muhammad Asif, around 18 Ahmadi families had left their homes for protection. Ahmadis are legally declared ‘non-Muslims’ in Pakistan and frequently persecuted.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan, an Islamic republic of some 200 million, where even unproven allegations frequently stir mob violence and lynchings. Eleven Ahmadis were murdered for their faith in 2014 and authorities have failed to apprehend any of the killers, highlighting growing intolerance toward the sect.

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