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Pakistan: Caretaker PM Kakar hands out compensation of Rs 2 million each to around 100 Christian families – Times of India

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LAHORE: Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar on Monday visited the violence-hit Jaranwala town in Punjab province and handed out a compensation of Rs 2 million each to around 100 Christian families whose homes were burnt down along with 21 churches by a mob of radical Islamists last week. The mob ransacked and torched 21 churches and several houses of Christians last week over blasphemy allegations in Jaranwala town of Faisalabad district, 130 km from Punjab’s provincial capital Lahore. A Christian cemetery and the office of the local assistant commissioner were also vandalized.
Kakar visited Jaranwala to express solidarity with the victims of the Christian community, where he distributed cheques worth two million rupees (USD 6,800) each to the affected people.
He assured all the minority communities in the country that the government is committed to protecting their lives and properties as he pledged to bring the perpetrators of heinous attacks against Christians to justice.
“If anyone causes harm to the minorities, the law of the country will take its course by ensuring that such incidents should not happen in future,” he said.
The Prime Minister also reviewed the renovation and rehabilitation work of churches and other structures that were damaged by the mob.
“I’m heading to Jaranwala to meet and empathise with our Christian brethren,” he tweeted earlier.
Speaking on the occasion, Punjab’s caretaker chief minister Mohsin Naqvi said the main culprits of the Jaranwala incident have been apprehended.
“The damaged churches will be restored while the compensation cheques will be handed over to all the affected families,” he said.
“At least 94 families will receive compensation of Rs 2 million each. The amount will help them rebuild their houses damaged in the violence,” Naqvi had said earlier.
The Christian leaders told Naqvi on Monday that at least 200 houses were damaged in the violence, and all should be compensated.
According to the police, at least 20 churches and 86 houses of Christians were burnt down by the mob in Jaranwala last Wednesday.
The two Christians accused of desecrating the Quran were arrested, police said, adding that 145 suspects have been arrested so far, including a cleric who made announcements from five mosques inciting people to attack Christian homes and churches.
The police report also hinted at the presence of radical Islamist Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) elements that spearheaded the mob which unleashed the attack.
Meanwhile, protests erupted against the Punjab chief minister for ignoring Catholics in Jaranwala.
Catholic Diocese of Faisalabad Vicar General Fr Abid Tanveer said that hundreds of Catholic Christians of Jaranwala waited in Christian Colony for the Naqvi, but the chief minister visited an area of a small community and ignored the Christian Colony.
Tanveer asserted that the biggest church of Jaranwala, the Catholic Church, located in the Christian Colony, was burnt and demolished in the riots, and 200 houses were damaged in the locality, while their valuables were also looted. He added that by ignoring the locality, Naqvi hurt the sentiments of the Catholics.
On Sunday, the Punjab caretaker cabinet joined the Christian community in Jaranwala and sat among the rubble of a burnt church for the first Sunday mass.
Asserting that the restoration of other churches would be completed this week, Naqvi said the rights of individuals with affiliations to various faiths would be safeguarded at all costs, and those who engage in ‘mistreatment’ would be made an example.
Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan, where anyone deemed to have insulted Islam or Islamic figures can face the death penalty. Often an accusation can cause riots and incite mobs to violence, lynching and killings.
According to the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), till August 16 this year, around 198 persons have been accused of blasphemy, 85 per cent of them Muslims, 9 per cent Ahmadis and 4.4 per cent Christians.
It said the Punjab province recorded over 75 per cent of the abuse of blasphemy laws cases in the past 36 years.
Minorities, including Christians and Hindus, have been frequently subjected to blasphemy allegations and some tried and even sentenced under blasphemy in Pakistan.

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