JHELUM: Officials in city hit by sectarian riots called a meeting of religious clerics Sunday to defuse tensions as scores of Ahmadis reportedly fled after a weekend of violence. The unrest began Friday when an angry mob in Jhelum torched a factory after one of its employees, a member of the Ahmadi sect, was accused of committing blasphemy by burning pages of the holy Quran.
On Saturday, protesters ransacked an Ahmadi place of worship in the congested Kala Gujran area of the city and set fire to some Ahmadi homes.
“We have called the local clerics and traders and they have agreed to help restore peace because they are convinced that violence is not Islamic,” Zulfiqar Ahmad Ghumman, chief of the district administration, told AFP.
He added that authorities would hunt down those responsible for the violence.
Tensions remained high Sunday as police, paramilitary rangers and soldiers patrolled the city to keep it calm.
“Around 18 Ahmadi families live in this neighbourhood. They had already left their homes for protection even before the mob attacked their worship place here,” said Chaudhry Muhammad Asif, a local councillor in Kala Gujran.
Punjab Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Rana Sanaullah said here on Sunday that Jhelum’s incidents of arson of a factory and Ahmedis’ place of worship will be thoroughly investigated. “No-one will be allowed to take the law into their hands and punishments will be decided by the courts,” he added.
He said that all possible measures to keep the law and order situation under control were taken timely.
The minister’s statements came a day after an enraged mob set a place of worship belonging to Ahmadis and a factory on fire in district Jhelum.