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Tourist accused of blasphemy killed by mob in Pakistan

22-06-2024

By SJA Jafri

ISLAMABAD/ SWAT: A tourist has been dragged from a police station and killed by a mob in north-west Pakistan after being accused of blasphemy.

The police had been attempting to protect the man from the large group in the town of Madyan, a town in Swat district.

The mob had gathered after the man was accused of desecrating the Quran, Islam’s holy book, on Thursday.

Lynchings are not uncommon after an accusation of blasphemy, which is punishable by death in Pakistan.

A Christian man was attacked last month after being accused of burning pages of the Quran, dying shortly afterwards.

Video of this latest incident has prompted outrage on social media in Pakistan. Footage shows the man’s body being paraded through the streets and then set alight.

Police confirmed that the tourist had been “torched” and some 11 people were injured in the incident.

Malankand division’s regional police Chief Mohammad Ali Gandapur accused the local mosque of encouraging people to gather after police first rescued the man, who was reportedly visiting the Swat Valley, a popular destination in summer.

He told media that eight officers were among the injured.

Dr Zahidullah, police officer in the Swat region, told media police made a concerted effort to clear blocked roads to disperse the angry crowds of people on Thursday night.

Police say they have opened a case against hundreds of people involved in the incident – some as young as 13. Local authorities have since deployed additional security forces to the region.

According to media, hotels in the town had been full, but tourists were now scrambling to leave.

Religion-fueled violence in Pakistan has risen since the country made blasphemy made a crime under a 19th century law brought in by the British punishable by death in the 1980s even unfounded accusations can incite protests and mob violence against alleged perpetrators. Human rights critics have long argued that minorities are often the target of accusations.

Around 96% of Pakistan’s population is Muslim. Other countries, including Iran, Brunei, and Mauritania also impose capital punishment for insulting religion.

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are based on the legal system of its British colonial rulers, who introduced laws related to religion in 1860 to quell Hindu-Muslim violence in the Indian subcontinent.

These laws remained unchanged following Pakistan’s creation in August 1947 but were first amended in 1974, when a constitutional amendment declared the Ahmadiyya sect, a 500,000-strong religious minority which considers itself to be Muslim, as “non-Muslim”.

During the rule of military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq from 1977 to 1988, the laws were further strengthened with new criminal offences such as defiling the Quran, insulting Islam’s prophet, or using “derogatory” language about certain religious figures.Blasphemy remains one of the most sensitive subjects in Pakistan, where even insinuations of accusations can lead to widespread violence.

Since 1987, more than 2,000 people have been accused of blasphemy, and at least 88 people have been killed because of such allegations, according to the Centre for Social Justice, an independent group based in Lahore advocating for minority rights, which compiles data relating to blasphemy cases in Pakistan.

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