Eight churches were burnt and several homes vandalised on Wednesday in Pakistan’s Punjab province after accusations of blasphemy, CNN reported.

The violence took place in the Jaranwala town of the Faisalabad district after some Muslims alleged that two Christian men tore pages from the Quran, threw them on the ground and wrote insulting remarks on some other pages.

A mob then began attacking churches and Christian homes in the town. Some people from the minority community fled their homes in order to escape from the mob, the Associated Press reported.

Akmal Bhatti, a Christian leader, told Reuters that the crowd stole valuables from homes that had been abandoned by their owners after clerics used mosque loudspeakers to incite them.

The Catholic Church, the Salvation Army Church and the Pentecostal Church in Jaranwala were vandalised and set on fire. Some homes in the town’s Christian Colony were also set ablaze, said Yasir Talib, who works for an organisation called the Centre for Social Justice.

Videos on social media showed smoke rising from church buildings and people setting fire to furniture that had been dragged from them.

In some places, the police were reportedly watching the violence and did not intervene to stop it. However, the police subsequently fired in the air and used batons to control the mob.

Dozens of people have been arrested for allegedly taking part in the violence.

Local authorities imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of Pakistan’s Code of Criminal Procedure, Dawn reported. The paramilitary Punjab Rangers were also deployed to maintain peace.

The government of Pakistan’s Punjab province issued directives for a high-level inquiry into the matter.

The police have also filed a case against those accused of having desecrated the Quran under Sections 295B (defiling, etc., of the Holy Quran) and 295C (use of derogatory remarks, etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar said that he was “gutted by the visuals coming out of Jaranwala”.

He wrote on X social media platform, formerly known as Twitter, that stern action will be taken against those targeting minorities. “All law enforcement has been asked to apprehend culprits and bring them to justice,” he added. “Rest assured that the government of Pakistan stands with our citizenry on equal basis.”

Former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the developments in Jaranwala were disturbing and that there was no place for violence in any religion. “All religious places, Holy Books and personages are sacred and deserve our highest level of respect,” he said. “I urge the government to take action against the culprits.”

Sharif urged Islamic religious leaders to “condemn the reprehensible actions” and said that the country belongs to all religious minorities.