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Pakistan: 23 arrested for lynching, hanging man in public on allegations of Quran desecration

In the second case of blasphemy-related death, a tourist was lynched and hanged in public by an enraged mob in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on allegations of Quran desecration. The mob also set fire to the Madyan police station and a vehicle and dragged Mohammad Ismail, 40, through the town.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Peshawar Updated on: June 23, 2024 23:52 IST
Police officers examine burnt vehicles which were torched
Image Source : PTI Police officers examine burnt vehicles which were torched by a Muslim mob in an attack, in Madyan.

Peshawar: At least 23 people have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the lynching of a tourist in the Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for allegedly desecrating the Holy Quran on Thursday. An enraged mob brutally lynched and dragged Mohammad Ismail, 40, a tourist from Sialkot, through the town for allegedly burning some pages of the Quran before hanging him in full public view.

Some individuals in a local market announced that a man had committed blasphemy after which a crowd of people nabbed the man and handed him over to the police. The suspect was taken into custody and brought to Madyan police station. An enraged mob gathered outside the police station and demanded that he be handed over.

After the police refused to do so, the mob opened fire and the police retaliated. One person was seriously injured in the exchange of fire and was transferred to the Madyan Hospital, the DPO said. The mob then set the police station and a vehicle on fire. Later, some people entered the police station, shot the suspect, dragged his body to Madyan Adda and hanged it there, said District Police Officer (DPO), Swat, Zahidullah.

Police arrested 23 people for alleged involvement in Ismail's lynching and the arson attack on the Madyan police station, Geo News reported. Those arrested were shifted to an undisclosed location while efforts were underway to arrest others involved in the incident and they had been identified. Police said the first two FIRs had been registered under the charges of blasphemy and damaging state property.

Pakistan minister criticises lynching

The latest incident of mob violence nearly a month after a mob led by radical Islamists unleashed an attack on Christians in Pakistan's Punjab province over the allegations of desecration of the Quran that left at least two members from the minority community injured, one of them seriously. Later, he succumbed to his injuries. 

The mob led by radical Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) activists attacked the Christian community, burning and ransacking their property. According to senior Punjab police officer Asad Ejaz Malhi, a heavy contingent of police has reached Mujahid Colony and dispersed the mob which had surrounded some houses (of Christians) over the allegations of the desecration of the Quran. 

On Saturday, Pakistan’s Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal condemned the lynching, lamenting how religion is being weaponised to justify "street justice" and "vigilantism". “We must take notice of this incident as our nation is on the brink. We have now reached a point where we are using religion to justify mob violence and street justice, flagrantly violating the Constitution, the law and the state,” Iqbal said.

The Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) also vehemently condemned the incident and criticised the country's law enforcement agencies for their inaction. The rights group said the victim was lynched despite him being in police custody, further asserting that the law enforcement authorities failed to protect him from the mob's wrath.

Blasphemy in Pakistan

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.

At least 2,120 people are reported to have been accused of committing blasphemy between 1987 and 2022, as per Dawn. 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 agencies)

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

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