Police in Pakistan have said a middle-aged man was stoned to death by a mob in a remote village after he allegedly desecrated the Qur’an.
The custodian of a local mosque said he saw the man burning the Muslim holy book inside the mosque on Saturday evening and told others before informing police, according to the police spokesperson Chaudhry Imran. The incident 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 wounding the other two officers.
Imran said the identity of the man accused of blasphemy was not yet known.
Munawar Gujjar, the 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’s custodian, said he saw smoke inside the building, 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.
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, removing the body, which was transported to a hospital for autopsy.
Gujjar said investigators were scanning video footage to try to identify the assailants.
Allama Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi, an aide to the prime minister, Imran Khan, on religious affairs, condemned the killing and pledged to bring the culprits to justice. He said no one had the right to take the law into their own hands, even if a suspect was involved in an offense, including blasphemy.
The killing follows the lynching in December of a Sri Lankan manager of a sporting goods factory in Sialkot in Punjab province who was accused by workers of blasphemy.
Mob attacks on people accused of blasphemy are common in the 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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