Enraged Mob Storms Police Station in Pakistan, Kills Blasphemy Suspect

Authorities in northwestern Pakistan reported Thursday that an enraged crowd stormed a police station, seized a detainee facing blasphemy charges, and killed him.

The evening violence took place in Swat District, a popular tourist destination in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, following local announcements that a tourist had desecrated the Quran. Residents tortured the man before police took him into custody and moved him to their detention facility.

Witnesses and officials said a mob later gathered outside the police station, demanding the man be brought to justice for insulting Islam’s holy book. Police fired shots into the air to disperse protesters but failed to prevent them from assaulting and setting fire to the building and police vehicles before taking “the suspect away.”

Zahidullah Khan, the district police chief, told local media that the crowd had set fire to the suspect’s body after beating him to death. He added that the unrest resulted in several injuries.

Videos shared on social media showed a crowd gathered around a burning body in the street. VOA could not immediately verify the footage from independent sources.

Khan said police reinforcements later arrived in the area and efforts were underway to defuse the tensions.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in majority-Muslim Pakistan, and mere allegations have led to mobs lynching scores of suspects — even some in police custody. Insulting the Quran or Islamic beliefs is punishable by death under the country’s blasphemy laws, though no one has ever been officially executed.

Last month, hundreds of people gathered in a Christian settlement in the central Pakistani city of Sargodha and killed a Christian man in his early 70s after accusing him of desecrating the Quran.

In August 2023, in a similar blasphemy accusation, thousands of Muslim protesters attacked a Christian neighborhood, burning scores of properties, including 21 churches, over allegations that two Christian brothers had desecrated the Quran.

Domestic and international rights groups have long demanded Pakistan reform its blasphemy laws, arguing they are often used to settle personal vendettas and disputes and to intimidate religious minorities.

Critics say that hundreds of suspects, mostly Muslims, are languishing in jails in Pakistan because fear of retaliation from religious groups deters judges from moving their trials forward.

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