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Pakistani 'blasphemy vigilante' mob kills man

June 21, 2024

A crowd of vigilantes in Pakistan killed and burned the body of a man whom they accused of desecrating the Quran. Police registered a case against the mob of hundreds.

Plainclothes police officers stand next to the burned vehicles in Madyan in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on 21 June, 2024.
The attackers also torched the police station in Madyan, and burned police vehicles parked thereImage: Naveed Ali/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Hundreds of men swarmed on a police station in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where they beat a man to death before setting fire to his body.

The victim had been staying at a hotel in the town of Maydan when locals accused him of blasphemy for allegedly desecrating Islam's holy book, the Quran.

What do we know about the attack?

Police official Rahim Ullah said police had taken the man to the station for his own protection after town residents turned on him. Another official, Zahid Khan, said the man was being questioned after the mob accused him of burning pages from the Quran.

However, the mob grew and stormed the police station and snatched the man who they beat to death before setting fire to his body, which they left on a road. The attackers also torched the police station and burned police vehicles parked there.

Ullah said additional police officers had been deployed to the town to bring the situation under control.

Police said the man who was accused of blasphemy was a tourist from the Punjab region. Police registered a case against the mob and were trying to identify them, police official Khan later said.

"We have started investigations into the incident and are tracing those who attacked the police station," spokesman Wajid Rasool said.

How does the law deal with blasphemy?

Blasphemy — where the accused are deemed to have insulted Islam or Islamic figures — is punishable by death in Pakistan. Aside from the legal charge, there are multiple cases of angry vigilante crowds lynching accused individuals.

Muslim mob in Pakistan accuses Christians of blasphemy

Hundreds are in prison facing blasphemy charges, with judges often postponing trials for fear of retribution if they are deemed too lenient.

Even unproven blasphemy allegations can lead to the accused being lynched.

According to rights groups, accusations of blasphemy are sometimes used as a means of settling scores.

A mob vandalized a Christian neighborhood in the Punjabi town of Sargodha last month and tortured a man who was accused of blasphemy. He died in hospital weeks later.

The violence recalled one of the worst attacks on Pakistani Christians in 2023, when a mob of thousands torched the homes of Christians in the town of Jaranwala, also in Punjab.

rc/rmt (AP, AFP, dpa)