A three member bench of the apex court headed by the Chief Justice and comprising Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed on Wednesday resumed hearing over the court’s notice taken over the arson attack in a Christian neighbourhood in Lahore. The court in its short order said that the government has failed to protect citizens.
The court criticized the government of Punjab and said with this incident a message has been sent to the world that the minorities were not equal citizens.
The court held the Inspector General (IG) police of Punjab and the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Lahore responsible for the incident.
In its short order of the suo motu case, the court maintained that the suspension of the SHO and DPO was not enough and no further negligence will be tolerated in the case.
The Supreme Court ordered police and provincial officials to explain why they failed to prevent a riot in a Christian area of Lahore in which more than 100 homes were torched.
During the hearing, Punjab’s Advocate General Ashrat Ausaf Ali, submitted reports over the Joseph Colony and Gojra incidents and informed the court that recommendations were sent to relevant authorities after the Gojra incident.
The apex court rejected the report and sought a comprehensive written reply from the Punjab government over the Badami Bagh incident.
The bench said in its remarks that Punjab police had a tainted history referring to the Shantinagar episode of 1997 and added that contradictions existed in the report submitted by it.
Three days went by between the blasphemy claims, which often provoke a violent public response in Pakistan, and the carnage in Joseph Colony. Chief Justice said the violence could have been avoided.
“We would like to have a clear stance of (Punjab) provincial government on failure to provide protection to people,” Chief Justice said.
He rejected a report submitted by the provincial government, saying: “nothing has been produced to establish causes of the incident in Joseph Colony… we need a specific reply”.
“Similarly, no specific reply has been submitted in the report about conduct of police officers including the inspector general of Punjab police, city police chief and the local in-charge of police in the area,” Chief Justice said.
The court said in its short order that it has to be informed about the reasons behind the incident and about the action taken against those held responsible for the attacks.
Chief Justice said that incidents like Gojra and Badami Bagh are failure of the provincial government.
During case proceeding, Punjab Advocate General presented a report on Gojra tragedy and said the investigation was conducted behind closed-doors; however, the report was present on the website.
On this, the chief justice stated that although the proceedings of judicial commission are carried out in close-door meetings, but its recommendations are for the general public.
He said that the common man should know the reasons behind the incident, adding that commission’s purpose would remain incomplete if people are not aware of its findings.
The court said that the government did not effectively discharge its duty to protect lives and properties of people.
The Chief Justice enquired of details of the incident. At which, SSP Instigation, Babar Bakht informed the court that two local groups were involved in the entire incident. One of them wanted patch-up with the accused while the other one politicized the matter by arson attacks.
He said chiefs of both the groups, Tariq Gujjar and Usman Butt, have been nominated in the FIR.
The AG said accuser and witness of the blasphemy were missing. To which, the Chief Justice said “then what ground the whole story has? Other objectives are achieved in the pretext of such incidents.”
Justice Azmat Saeed enquired what role the District Peace Committee and its chief played to prevent the incident.
The SSP informed the court that the accused had confessed to being intoxicated and he doesn’t know what he spoke. The SSP said that 35 suspects of the violence have been arrested, adding NADRA’s data would be used to round up more accused.
The Supreme Court said the Punjab Government has failed to establish the causes of Joseph Colony incident. The court said that judgment over the case would be announced on March 18 and the court adjourned hearing of the case till March 18.
Earlier on Monday, the Supreme Court rejected a report filed by the Punjab police over Badami Bagh incident and expressed displeasure over authorities for their failure to cope with the violence.
It is pertinent to mention here that on March 9, a mob set ablaze more than 150 houses of Christians in the Joseph Colony over alleged blasphemous remarks by a Christian sanitation worker and the authorities in Lahore arrested 150 people on charges of riot and arson.