Protesters Saturday seized a mosque of the minority Ahmadi sect in northeastern Pakistan just one day after they torched a factory following allegations an Ahmadi employee had committed blasphemy, Reuters reported. No causalities were reported in either incident.
The interior ministry said police and army forces had been sent to the Jehlum district about 100 miles north of the city of Lahore. Ahmadis consider themselves Muslim but often face strong opposition from Pakistan's Sunni Muslim majority and frequently are subjected to violence and discrimination, many times facing blasphemy charges, which are punishable by death.
Provincial police told Reuters the situation in Jehlum had been brought under control, but negotiations with religious leaders and protesters continued in an effort to bring the tense standoff at the seized mosque to an end.
Hundreds of people gathered and surrounded a chipboard factory Friday night, setting it on fire after suggestions surfaced an employee had allegedly desecrated the Quran, Agence France-Presse reported.
Heavy contingents of Police including the DPO reached the scene, firing rubber bullets to disperse the enraged mob.
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"The incident took place after we arrested the head of security at the factory, Qamar Ahmed Tahir, following complaints that he ordered the burning of Qurans," Adnan Malik, a senior police official in the Jehlum area, told AFP. The furniture of a local Ahmadi mosque was burned Friday as well, a witness told Reuters.
"A mob attacked our mosque in Kala Gujran, an area in Jehlum, took out its furniture, set [it] on fire. Then they washed the mosque and later offered evening prayers in the mosque," Amir Mehmood, a member of the Ahmadi community, said.
A mob reportedly gathered Saturday in Kala Gujran, a town near Jehlum, and torched several homes of Ahmadi families as well as a mosque. Ahmadis, who make up small percentage of Pakistan's 180 million population, believe a prophet came after the Prophet Muhammad, who in mainstream Islam is considered the last of God's messengers.
A 1984 Pakistani law declared Ahmadis non-Muslims and made it possible to jail them for "posing as a Muslim" or "offending a Muslim's feelings," Reuters said.