Over 170 houses and shops of Christians were set on fire by a mob in the Badami Bagh area of Lahore on Saturday. This, they said, was to avenge an alleged act of blasphemy by a Christian two days ago, bringing back memories of the 2009 Gojra violence.

Following condemnations from federal leadership and several others, the Punjab government ordered a judicial enquiry by evening. According to officials, 178 premises, including a church, were wholly or partially damaged by the mob that descended upon Joseph Colony in the Badami Bagh area in the morning.Residents claimed that though the trouble began at night itself, the police response then was to ask them to vacate the area. “We were advised to leave the place”, said a resident, adding that hours later the mob ransacked their premises and set them afire. “The police just watched while our belongings were being torched”

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf reiterated that all Pakistanis — Muslim and non-Muslim — have an equal right to live in this country. “Such acts of vandalism against minorities tarnish the image of the country”, the President added.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told television channels that there was no justification whatsoever for the mob attacking the Christians because the blasphemy accused had already been taken into custody.

The nature of the blasphemy committed is not clear because repeating it is regarded as blasphemous.