Police have arrested 85 suspects, including 15 key suspects, after a mentally unstable man was lynched in Mian Channu tehsil of Khanewal district over blasphemy allegations on Saturday evening.
The deceased, middle-aged Mushtaq Rajput of Chak 12 village, was described by his brother as a mentally-challenged person being treated for several years.
Video footage was used for the identification and arrest of the perpetrators who had gathered in Jungle Dera area after Maghrib prayers to confront Mushtaq for allegedly desecrating the Holy Quran, police said.
According to eyewitnesses, police arrived at the spot and took Mushtaq into custody, but he was snatched away by the mob that tied him to a tree before stoning him to death.
Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Rao Sardar said police had registered a case under terror charges against 300 unknown suspects, including 33 nominated accused.
“We have so far conducted 120 raids to apprehend the culprits,” the police chief said, adding that the police would conduct forensic analysis of available footage to nab remaining suspects.
PM VOWS ‘ZERO TOLERANCE’
Earlier, Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan, while reacting to the incident, reiterated that the government had “zero tolerance” for anyone taking the law into their own hands.
“Mob lynching incidents will be dealt with strictly under the law,” the premier tweeted Sunday.
He added that he had sought a report from the Punjab IGP on the progress of action against the culprits and cops who had failed to maintain law and order.
We have zero tolerance for anyone taking the law into their own hands & mob lynchings will be dealt with full severity of the law. Have asked Punjab IG for report on action taken against perpetrators of the lynching in MIan Channu & against the police who failed in their duty.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) February 13, 2022
“We have zero tolerance for anyone taking the law into their own hands & mob lynchings will be dealt with the full severity of the law. [The govt] has asked Punjab IGP for a report on action taken against perpetrators of the lynching in Mian Channu & against the police who failed in their duty,” he wrote.
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry also reacted to the gruesome incident, saying that he had repeatedly drawn attention towards the topics preaching destructive terrorism in the education system of Pakistan.
میں نے بارہا اپنے نظام تعلیم میں تباہ کن شدت پسندی کی طرف توجہ دلائ ہے،سیالکوٹ اور میاں چنوں جیسے واقعات عشروں سے نافذ تعلیمی نظام کا حاصل ہیں یہ مسئلہ قانون کے نفاذ کا بھی ہے اور سماج کی تنزلی کا بھی، سکول، تھانہ اور منبر اگر ان تین کی اصلاح نہ ہوئ تو بڑی تباہی کیلئے تیار رہیں
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) February 13, 2022
“Incidents like Sialkot and Mian Channu lynching are an outcome of the educational system enforced in the country for decades,” Fawad said, adding that the matter was both about the implementation of law and deterioration of the society.
The minister warned of “major destruction” in the absence of reforms at the grassroots.
Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari also condemned the incident and said that the culprits would not be allowed to walk scot-free and bashed the Punjab government for “acting like a silent spectator at the time of the incident”.
Taking to Twitter, the minister said that laws were there and police should implement them instead of letting mobs do as they please.
The mob lynching of a man in MIan Channu is condemnable & cannot be allowed to go unpunished. Punjab govt must immed take action against the police that watched it happen & the perpetrators. Laws exist – the police must enforce these laws & not allow mobs to rule the day.
— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) February 13, 2022
She also urged the provincial government to take immediate action against the police for letting such an incident happen again.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Ulema Council chairman and PM’s Special Representative for Religious Harmony Allama Tahir Ashrafi, while addressing a press conference at the Khanewal deputy commissioner’s office, condemned the incident.
He announced that the premier had ordered stern punishment against the perpetrators and the culprits will be brought to justice at all costs.
The tragic killing comes weeks after a Sri Lankan national, Priyantha Kumara, was lynched by a mob over blasphemy allegations in Sialkot.
On Feb 9, a mob ransacked the Tehsil Municipal Administration (TMA) office in Swabi district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province and assaulted at least one person while looking for an official accused of blasphemy.
According to reports, the incident took place on February 9 in Razar tehsil of Swabi, where a mob, consisting of at least 500 people, barged into the TMA office wielding sticks, looking for the tehsil revenue officer responsible for collecting fines and rent at local markets.
The officer had been accused of blasphemy by a former president of traders union on political grounds, a preliminary investigation conducted by the police concluded.
On Nov 29, 2021, a charged mob attacked and set on fire a police station in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP) Charsadda district, demanding that authorities hand over a man arrested for allegedly desecrating the Holy Quran.
KP Law Minister Fazal Shakoor Khan, who hails from Charsadda, told reporters that police had arrested a man for allegedly desecrating the Quran and shifted him to the Mandani police station in Charsadda’s Tangi tehsil.
A mob later gathered outside the police station and demanded that officials hand over the man to them. When police denied their demand, the mob, which had grown to a sizeable number by late evening, grew agitated and attacked the police station and set it on fire. They also vandalised the vehicles parked in the police station, according to the minister.
MISUSE OF BLASPHEMY ALLEGATIONS
According to a recent research, at least 89 persons were killed in 1,415 accusations and cases of blasphemy since modern Pakistan was formed in 1947.
The Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) in a report stated that from 1947 to 2021, 18 women and 71 men were extra-judicially killed over blasphemy accusations. The allegations were made against 107 women and 1,308 men. Out of the total, 1,287 persons were accused of committing blasphemy from 2011- 21.
“The actual number is believed to be higher because not all blasphemy cases get reported in the press,” the report said, adding that more than 70 percent of the accused were reported from Punjab. The data showed that 55 cases were filed in the Islamabad Capital Territory, which was more than the cases of blasphemy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir put together.
Moreover, 1,098 cases were reported from Punjab followed by 177 from Sindh, 33 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 12 from Balochistan, and 11 from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
For decades, minority leaders have raised concerns about the misuse of blasphemy laws, which stipulate the death sentence for insulting Islam or the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).