Saturday, June 22, 2024

Man accused of desecrating religious book stoned to death by mob in Pakistan; 62 arrested

mob in Pakistan
Pakistan has extremely strict laws against defaming Islam, including the death penalty, and rights campaigners say they are often used to settle scores in the Muslim majority country. Credit: iStock Photo

Islamabad/Lahore, February 13: A middle-aged man was stoned to death and his body was hung from a tree by a mob for allegedly desecrating a religious book in a remote village in Pakistan’s Punjab province, police said on Sunday, a gruesome incident that has sparked nationwide outrage.
The incident took place in Jungle Derawala village, in Khanewal district, situated 275-km from Lahore on Saturday evening, where locals had gathered after their Maghrib (evening) prayers, following announcements that a man had torn pages of the Holy Quran and had set them on fire.
The police had arrived in the village before the incident, but the mob had outnumbered them.
They seized the victim from the SHO’s custody and tied him to a tree, after which he was lynched to death, eyewitnesses said.
Over 300 men had gathered at Masjid Shahmuqeem Muaza in Jungle Derawala village, where they tied a middle-aged man with a rope before stoning him to death. Later, they hung his body on a tree, police officer Muhammad Amin told PTI.
He said two policemen, who tried to bring the body down from the tree, were injured when mob began throwing stones at them.
“Police tried to take the injured man into custody, but we were outnumbered by the mob, and they killed him. They chanted religious slogans and attacked the two policemen who tried to bring the victim’s body down from the tree. Once fresh reinforcements arrived in the village, they shifted the body to a mortuary,” Amin said.
According to BBC Urdu service, the victim was identified as Mushtaq Ahmed (son of Bashir Ahmed), who was a resident of Bara Chak village.
The villagers said that the victim was mentally unstable and stayed out of the house for several days.
A number of videos have surfaced on social media in which the enraged mob can be seen torturing the man and hanging his body on the tree. Some had even tried to burn his body, according to the videos that are circulating online.
Punjab Inspector General of Police Rao Sardar Ali Khan submitted a preliminary report of the incident to Punjab Chief Minis ter Usman Buzdar.
According to the report, a case was registered against 33 suspects and 300 unknown persons while sections related to heinous crimes and terrorism were also added.
Chief Minister Buzdar has issued directives that all requirements of justice must be met and said no one would be allowed to take the law into their own hands.
Police have registered an FIR against 300 people. Of them, 62 have been arrested so far and raids are being conducted to nab the remaining culprits, Amin said.
The detained accused also included the prime suspects. The police will conduct forensic analysis of available footage to identify more suspects.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday expressed anguish over the incident and said the culprits involved in the lynching will be “dealt with (the) full severity of the law” along with police officials who “failed in their duty”.
We have zero tolerance for anyone taking the law into their own hands and mob lynching will be dealt with the full severity of the law, he tweeted a day after the incident.
Khan said he has sought a report from the Punjab police chief on the actions taken against perpetrators of the lynching.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said he had “repeatedly pointed out” the destructive extremist elements present in the education system.
“This problem is one of rule of law and one of social decline as well. Be prepared for great destruction if the school, police station and pulpit are not reformed,” he warned.
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari condemned the incident and said it should not go unpunished”.
“Punjab government must immediately take action against the police that watched it happen and the perpetrators. Laws exist – the police must enforce these laws and not allow mobs to rule the day,” she said.
She also shared a statement from Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Religious Harmony Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, who condemned the incident and called for action against the perpetrators.
Pakistan has extremely strict laws against defaming Islam, including the death penalty, and rights campaigners say they are often used to settle scores in the Muslim majority country.
The brutal incident comes a little over two months after a Sri Lankan executive of a garment factory was lynched and his body torched by angry supporters of a hardline Islamist party that attacked the facility in Pakistan’s Punjab province over blasphemy allegations. (PTI)