Muslim mob in Pakistan lynches tourist over alleged blasphemy, torches police station

  • Over the years, there has been significant opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy law due to its draconian nature.

Mausam Jha
First Published23 Jun 2024, 11:14 AM IST
Local residents look at a spot where a Muslim mob lynched and burned a man over allegations that he had desecrated Islam's holy book, the Quran, in Madyan in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Friday, June 21, 2024. The attackers also torched a police station which had held the man in Madyan and burned police vehicles parked there, according to local police official Rahim Ullah. (AP Photo/Naveed Ali)
Local residents look at a spot where a Muslim mob lynched and burned a man over allegations that he had desecrated Islam’s holy book, the Quran, in Madyan in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Friday, June 21, 2024. The attackers also torched a police station which had held the man in Madyan and burned police vehicles parked there, according to local police official Rahim Ullah. (AP Photo/Naveed Ali)(AP)

A Muslim mob stormed a police station and destroyed parked police vehicles in northwestern Pakistan, Madyan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

As reported by AP, the mob seized a man detained there and lynched him on accusations of desecrating the Quran on Thursday, according to local police official Rahim Ullah. 

Mohammad Ismail, a tourist staying at a hotel in Madyan town, became the target of locals who accused him of blasphemy. Police officers reportedly took Ismail to the station to safeguard him, but a growing mob pursued them.

The mob proceeded to storm the station, seize Ismail, brutally assault him to death, and subsequently set fire to his body, leaving it abandoned on the road.

Also Read: Mob burns Pakistani churches, vandalises cemetery over alleged blasphemy

“Additional police forces have arrived in Madyan to bring the situation under control,” Ullah said.

It remains unclear whether any of the attackers were arrested.

Incidents of violence against individuals accused of blasphemy are frequent in Pakistan, a nation governed by conservative Islamic principles where blasphemy charges can lead to severe penalties, including death.

Both international and national rights organizations highlight that blasphemy allegations are often exploited to intimidate religious minorities and resolve personal disputes.

Also Read: Pakistan’s court sentence man to death over WhatsApp blasphemy

In a recent case last month in Punjab province, a mob attacked Nazir Masih, a 72-year-old Christian man, on allegations of desecrating Quranic pages. He succumbed to his injuries later in a hospital. 

Origin of Blasphemy Law in Pakistan

Blasphemy laws were introduced under British colonial rule in the Indian Penal Code of 1860, specifically sections 295 and 298, which criminalized actions and speech deemed disrespectful to religious beliefs and sacred figures. These laws were later reinforced and expanded upon in Pakistan after its independence in 1947. 

During the authoritarian rule of General Zia-ul-Haq from 1977 to 1988, five additional clauses were introduced into Pakistan's blasphemy laws. 

Also Read: Pak cop ASP Syeda Shehrbano Naqvi praised for saving woman mistaken for Blasphemy in Lahore, ‘Need more women in power…’

Of these, the blasphemy law under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code states, “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

These amendments, made under Zia's regime, marked a significant escalation of Islamization efforts aimed at transforming Pakistan into a theocratic state, unparalleled in the country's political history.

Political tussle on blasphemy

In 1991, the Federal Shariat Court recognized blasphemy as a hadd offence, where a single and simple transgression of Prophet Mohammad was punishable by death with no possibility of pardon or mitigation of sentence. Since 1990, 62 people have been murdered on unproved blasphemy allegations, according to an ORF report.

In 2010, the PPP proposed a private bill to amend the law to introduce proper procedures for reporting and handling blasphemy cases. However, the bill was withdrawn under pressure from religious groups, despite Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's invitation to religious leaders to suggest ways to prevent its misuse.

Also Read: Pakistani woman mobbed after people mistake Arabic text on her kurta for Quran verses | Watch

The opposition to the law topped tragically in 2011 with the assassinations of Shahbaz Bhatti, a minority minister, and Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, both vocal advocates for reforming the law.

Over the last twenty years, the National Commission of Justice and Peace, a Pakistani organization dedicated to offering legal aid and advocating for human rights, has documented that 1,534 individuals have faced blasphemy charges. Among them, 774 were Muslims, while the remaining 760 belonged to various minority religious communities.

(With inputs from agencies)

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First Published:23 Jun 2024, 11:14 AM IST
HomeNewsworldMuslim mob in Pakistan lynches tourist over alleged blasphemy, torches police station

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