A large number of people, including activists of religious parties, ransacked and set on fire a girls’ school in Lahore and clashed with police following reports that a question paper for a test had contained blasphemous references to the Prophet, police said on Thursday.

Activists of groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Islami Jamiat Talba, the students’ wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, and parents of some students were among those who on Wednesday vandalised three buildings of the Farooqi Girls High School, located near the historic Data Darbar shrine.

Residents of Karim Park near Data Darbar began gathering outside the school Wednesday morning following reports that its owner, Asim Farooqi, and teacher Arifa had committed blasphemy.

According to witnesses, the mob surrounded the three school buildings and forced their entry into the complex even after a large police contingent was deployed at the spot.

A sizeable number of activists of the Islami Jamiat Talba and JuD were part of the crowd and they demanded that the police should hand over the “blasphemers” to them.

The protesters subsequently forced their entry into the buildings after police used teargas in an attempt to disperse them. They let terrified students vacate the buildings and searched for the “blasphemers”.

After failing to find them, they ransacked the buildings and torched furniture, property and the car of the school’s owner. The charged protesters also stopped fire service personnel from entering the buildings to extinguish the fire. The police tried to disperse them for a second time but were unsuccessful.

Legislators Mian Marghoob and Khawaja Imran Nazir of the PML-N that rules Punjab and senior police officers reached the spot and requested the protesters to go home so that police could investigate the matter.

“I assure you the government will thoroughly investigate the matter and will not spare those involved in blasphemy,” promised Mr. Nazir, who is the political secretary to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.

Later, police claimed they had arrested both Farooqi and Arifa and booked them under the harsh blasphemy law.

A police official told PTI that the private school’s administration had set a question paper for a test a few days ago that allegedly contained “indecent” remarks about the Prophet Mohammed.

Police also registered a case against unidentified protesters for ransacking the school buildings.

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