JHElum/LAHORE - An angry mob torched a factory, owned by members of the Ahmadiya community, in Jhelum after one of its employees was accused of committing blasphemy, police officials said on Saturday.

Hundreds of people surrounded a chipboard factory on Friday night and set the facility ablaze after reports surfaced that one employee had allegedly desecrated the Holy Quran.

Local clerics made provocative speeches against Ahmadis, causing the enraged mob to resort to violence. Following which the people set ablaze the factory.

The mob later moved to the Grand Trunk Road, blocked the route and chanted slogans against the police.

Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas shells at the mob which resorted to aerial firing. Three people were reportedly injured in the clash. Jhelum district coordination officer (DCO) Mujhaid Akbar Khan tried talking to members of the mob but that did not yield any results.

Subsequently, armed forces' personnel were called in and the road was reopened six hours after the disturbance.

"The incident took place after we arrested the head of security at the factory, Qamar Ahmed Tahir, for complaints that he ordered the burning of Qurans," Adnan Malik, a senior police official in the area, told AFP.

According to police, Tahir belongs to the Ahmadi sect.

On Saturday, another mob gathered in the town of Kala Gujran near Jhelum and torched the homes of several Ahmadi families and an Ahmadi mosque.

Military troops have been sent in to patrol the area and bring the situation under control.

Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan took notice of the Jhelum incident. “The minister has ordered to deploy Army in the area,” Waqt News reported.

“Severe action will be taken against the culprits,” Nisar maintained. According to Jhelum police, another employee at the factory had reported that Tahir was overseeing the burning of Qurans in the facility's boiler and intervened to stop the act.

"We registered a blasphemy case against Tahir, who is Ahmadi by faith, and arrested him after confiscating the burnt material, which also included copies of the Quran," police official Malik said. Following the arrest, a mob reportedly descended on the factory, setting it alight.

A spokesman for the local Ahmadi community said three of their members were arrested in the incident's wake. "Three members of our community have been arrested by police under the charges of blasphemy. There is an accusation of burning the pages of the Quran," Saleemuddin told AFP. District police chief Mujahid Afsar said that authorities were trying to negotiate with the communities and calm down the situation but Saleemuddin said that the atmosphere was still violent.

“Ahmadi families have fled the area to save themselves, leaving their houses at the mercy of the unbridled mob.”

Further, the spokesperson added that the incident occurred in presence of the police, which was unable to control the enraged mob. Eleven Ahmadis were murdered for their faith in 2014 and authorities failed to apprehend any of the killers, a report said in April, highlighting growing intolerance toward the sect. Critics including European governments say the country's blasphemy laws are often misused to settle personal scores.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif presided over a meeting in Lahore yesterday, in which preliminary report of the untoward incident occurred in Jhelum was presented. The chief minister ordered investigation into the incident and said the inquiry committee should present a complete report after reviewing every aspect of the incident.

He said no person will be allowed to take law in his hands. He said all necessary steps should be taken for maintaining peace. Shahbaz directed Cabinet Committee on Law & Order to visit Jhelum to review the situation.

Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan, Chief Secretary, Inspector General Police, Secretary Home and concerned officials attended the meeting while elected representatives from Jhelum, Commissioner and RPO Rawalpindi, DCO and DPO Jhelum participated in the meeting through video link.