Man accused of blasphemy for allegedly burning Qu’ran stoned to death in Pakistan

An enraged mob stoned to death a middle-aged man for allegedly desecrating the Qur’an in a remote village in eastern Pakistan, police said Sunday.

The custodian of a local mosque said he saw the man burning the Muslim holy book inside the mosque Saturday evening and told others before informing police, according to police spokesperson Chaudhry Imran. The violence took place in a village in the district of Khanewal in Punjab province.

Imran said police rushed to the scene, where a man was found surrounded by an angry crowd. Officer Mohammad Iqbal and two subordinates tried to take custody of the man but the group began throwing stones at them, seriously injuring Iqbal and slightly injuring the other two officers.

Imran said the identity of the man accused of blasphemy was not yet known.

Munawar Gujjar, chief of Tulamba police station, said he rushed reinforcements to the mosque but they did not arrive before the mob had stoned to death the man and hung his body from a tree.

Mian Mohammad Ramzan, the mosque custodian, said he saw smoke inside the mosque, which is adjacent to his home, and rushed over to investigate. He found one Qur’an burned and saw a man attempting to burn another. He said people were starting to arrive for evening prayers as he was shouting for the man to stop.

Police tried to rescue man

Witnesses said a police team that reached the village before the stoning began took custody of a man but the mob snatched him away from them and beat the police as they tried to rescue him.

Later, more officers and constables reached the scene and took control, taking custody of the body, which was transported to a hospital for autopsy.

Gujjar, the area police chief, said investigators were scanning available videos to try to identify the assailants, who face arrest.

Allama Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, an aide to Prime Minister Imran Khan on religious affairs, condemned the killing and pledged to bring the culprits to justice. He said no one has the right to take the law into their own hands, even if a suspect was involved in an offence, including blasphemy.

The killing comes months after the lynching of a Sri Lankan manager of a sporting goods factory in Sialkot in Punjab province on Dec. 3 who was accused by workers of blasphemy.

Mob attacks on people accused of blasphemy are common in this conservative Islamic nation. International and national rights groups say blasphemy accusations have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores. Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan.

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