Pakistan: Mob storms Nankana Sahib police station, lynches man accused of blasphemy

PUNJAB [Pakistan], Feb 12: In yet another bloodcurdling incident in Punjab’s Nankana Sahib in Pakistan on Saturday, a violent mob on Saturday dragged a man from a police station who was locked up for allegedly committing blasphemy and tortured him to death,reported Geo News.
Videos shared on social media showed hundreds of youngsters besieging the police compound, with one man scaling a tall gate using a ladder and opening its lock. The video showed a man being dragged through streets by his legs, stripped of his clothes and battered by sticks and metal rods, in the latest incident of religion-linked violence in the Islamic republic.
As the mob was lynching the man — who was put behind bars for alleged blasphemy — Station House Officer (SHO) Warburton Feroze Bhatti and other police personnel escaped the scene to save their lives, reported Geo News.
Residents of the area claimed that the man — who had returned after spending two years in jail — used to practice witchcraft by pasting his ex-wife’s picture on holy papers.
Police officials said the victim, identified as Muhammad Waris, had been taken into custody for allegedly desecrating the Quran. They said news of the alleged crime outraged residents and hundreds of them later surrounded the police station, demanding the accused be handed over to them, reported Voice of America.
Seeing the massive violent crowd, police officers fled the facility. Protesters grabbed the man and dragged him out to the street where they beat him to death.
International rights groups have long criticised Pakistani authorities for not doing enough to stem lynchings over accusations of blasphemy, which have been frequent in the Muslim-majority country. Blasphemy is also a crime under Pakistani law, which can carry the death sentence.
There have been several cases of vigilante action by mobs against people accused of blasphemy including the murder of a Sri Lankan national, a garment factory manager, in 2021.
Six men were sentenced to death for lynching the Sri Lankan garment factory manager in a mass trial that involved some 89 suspects after the matter sparked national and global outrage.
A number of police officials have been suspended because of their inability to stop the mob, a statement from the police said. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered an investigation into the Warburton police station incident and asked why the police did not stop the violent mob, reported Geo News.
“The rule of law should be ensured. No one should be allowed to influence the law,” he said.
Mohsin Naqvi, the caretaker chief minister of Punjab, has also sought a report from the IG on the incident, directing an investigation from every aspect.
He ordered immediate action against the culprits, reported Geo News.
Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) Chairman Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi has condemned the incident, saying killing and burning someone accused of blasphemy was a cruel act.
“Inhuman torture and killing the person, accused of blaspheming the Holy Quran in #Nankana Sahib and attacking at the police station is regrettable and condemnable,” he wrote on Twitter.
Federal Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Shazia Marri said the incident was part of a “sad and dangerous trend that continues to haunt our society!”
“Need to counter with an effective narrative to achieve peace and harmony. We must learn to coexist and be tolerant. Pakistan was founded on strong principles that allowed everyone to live freely,” she said.
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in predominantly Muslim Pakistan and the offense is punishable by death. Mere allegations of blasphemy are enough to cause riots and the killing of the accused by vigilante groups.
Suspects are often attacked and sometimes lynched by mobs.
Saturday’s incident came nearly two weeks after Pakistan assured a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council that it was taking steps to counter the misuse of blasphemy laws.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar told the January 30 Geneva meeting the government had instituted safeguards against the misuse of the blasphemy law. She cited legal provisions calling for action against anyone falsely accusing someone of blasphemy.
Blasphemy laws in Pakistan have enabled and encouraged Islamist extremists to operate with impunity, easily targeting religious minorities or those with differing beliefs, including nonbelievers, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom said in its 2022 country report. (ANI)