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Pakistan: Christian man attacked by mob in Punjab province over allegations of Quran desecration dies

An enraged mob attacked Nazir Gill Masih, alias Lazar Masih, on May 25 over allegations of desecration of the Quran and burned down his shoe factory. He was hospitalised in a critical condition and succumbed to his injuries on Sunday.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Lahore Published on: June 03, 2024 15:02 IST
The mob attacked a Christian man in Pakistan's Punjab
Image Source : X The mob attacked a Christian man in Pakistan's Punjab province on May 25.

Lahore: An elderly Christian man, who was viciously attacked by a mob over blasphemy allegations in Pakistan's Punjab province that left him critically injured, has succumbed to his injuries, according to police on Monday. The incident shows once again the ugly side of Pakistan's anti-blasphemy laws, where radical Islamists often take the law in their own hands and lynch people accused of blasphemic acts.

An enraged mob led by radical Islamist Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) activists on May 25 attacked some Christian community members in Mujahid Colony in the Sargodha district of Punjab, some 200 km from Lahore, injuring two Christians and 10 policemen. The mob also ransacked the property belonging to the Christians. 

A heavy contingent of police had to deployed in the area to bring the situation under control as the mob had surrounded some houses (of Christians) over the allegations of the desecration of the Quran. Another police officer told PTI that on Saturday morning some youth in Mujahid Colony alleged that an elderly Christian man Nazir Gill Masih, alias Lazar Masih, desecrated the Quran. 

Factory set ablaze by angry mob

"Following their allegations, a mob led by the TLP activists marched towards the residence and a factory of Nazir. They set ablaze his shoe factory and his house. They also ransacked a few shops owned by Christians. Before police could reach the spot, the mob lynched and thrashed Nazir," he said. Nazir was hospitalised in a critical condition and the other Christian man also suffered injuries.

Police said the mob also torched Nazir, but the man was saved by the timely arrival of a heavy contingent of police rescued Masih, which rescued other members of the Christian community. The FIR says that some pages of the holy Quran were reportedly found outside the shoe factory, instigating the locals.

Masih, who was receiving treatment at the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Sargodha died on Sunday, police said. His nephew, Irfan Gill Masih, also confirmed the death. Gill said his uncle had returned from Dubai after four years, and was falsely accused of Quran desecration. He said the Christian families saved their lives by locking themselves inside their houses when the mob marched towards them.

"Another Jaranwala style attack on Christians in Sargodha with mob attacking the local community, burning and ransacking property. The failure of the State to take any serious and sincere action against perpetrators of the Jaranwala incident has only emboldened those who exploit religious sentiments for their criminal acts," Human rights lawyer and politician Jibran Nasir said on X.

Blasphemy in Pakistan

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said it was seriously concerned by the unfolding situation in Sargodha, where the Christian community in Gillwala village is reportedly at grave risk to their lives at the hands of charged mobs. "There are unconfirmed reports of a man having been allegedly lynched,” the HRCP said on X and asked the Punjab police to immediately restore calm and bring the perpetrators to book while ensuring that the Christian community comes to no further harm.

Prior to this, a teenage girl wearing an Arabic print shirt had to be saved by Pakistan police in Lahore from a charged mob accusing her of blasphemy. The incident raised a storm within the Pakistani Senate as several lawmakers called for strict action against those levelling "false charges of blasphemy" and slammed "ignorance".

Notably, domestic and international human rights groups say blasphemy allegations have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and to settle personal scores. Many religious minorities in Pakistan, including Christians and Hindus, have been frequently subjected to blasphemy allegations and have been tried and sentenced under the country's strict blasphemy law. Accusations of blasphemy provoke people into taking matters into their own hands and embolden 'mob justice' which has claimed several lives.

The 2023 report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom noted that Pakistan's religious freedom conditions had continued to deteriorate since last year. "Religious minorities were subject to frequent attacks and threats, including accusations of blasphemy, targeted killings, lynchings, mob violence, forced conversions, sexual violence against women and girls, and desecration of houses of worship and cemeteries," it said.

(with inputs from PTI)

ALSO READ | Pakistan 'blasphemy': Mob burns down houses and beats a Christian over alleged desecration of Quran

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