Police arrest mentally challenged person on blasphemy charge

    A mentally challenged person has been arrested and charged with blasphemy for allegedly burning pages of the Quran in Gojra, sources said.

    According to details, a case was registered against the accused on August 3, under Section 295-B of the blasphemy statutes on the complaint of a local office-bearer of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Ghulam Mustafa.

    “The accused threw some burnt pages and a copy of the Holy Quran into the sewage line while my friend and I were standing in the street. Upon witnessing this, we ran toward the accused, but he fled. We then entered his home, where we saw more burnt pages of the Holy Quran lying on the floor,” the First Information Report [FIR] quoted the complainant as saying.

    Gojra Police arrested the accused, who turned out to be a mentally challenged person, of approximately 25 or 26 years of age.

    Police said the accused had been sent to jail on a 14-day judicial remand.

    “The accused lived with his mother and sister, and the family has no permanent source of income. They are living in miserable conditions. We informed the court about the accused’s medical history and his family’s financial condition after which the judge decided to send him to jail,” a police official said.

    The complainant, who is also a neighbor of the accused, told a media outlet that the accused was indeed mentally ill and was unemployed for the last many months.

    “The accused used to be a motor mechanic, but suddenly he left the job. The entire locality knows that he’s of unsound mind,” the complainant stated.

    Section 295 B of the PPC states that “Whoever willfully defiles, damages, or desecrates a copy of the Holy Qur’an or an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.”

    Legal experts say that it is the duty of the judge to ascertain the mental condition of the accused under Section 464 of CrPC.

    “When a Magistrate holding an inquiry or a trial has reason to believe that the accused is of unsound mind and consequently incapable of making his defense, the Magistrate shall inquire into the fact of such unsoundness and shall cause such person to be examined by the Civil Surgeon of the district,” the section reads.

    The judge may also release such an accused pending medical examination.

    Section 84 of the PPC states that “nothing is an offense that is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, by reason of unsoundness of mind, is incapable of knowing the nature of the act or that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law.”

    Blasphemy is considered a serious crime in Pakistan, and many people have been lynched by mobs merely on the accusation of blasphemy. In most cases, the lynched person turned out to be a mentally challenged person or was falsely accused of blasphemy.

    According to an Amnesty International report, a member of the medical board at the Punjab Institute of Mental Health (PIMH) said, “We get 10 to 12 [blasphemy] cases [referred by the court] a year. We find that a majority of people referred to us are mentally ill. Many suffer from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.”

    In February 2022, a mob killed a 38-year-old man for allegedly burning pages of the Holy Quran in Khanewal. The man later turned out to be a clinically diagnosed schizophrenic patient.

    Gojra has also always remained in the spotlight for blasphemy cases. The city also witnessed deadly violence in 2009 over a case of alleged blasphemy by a Christian man. Riots erupted after an alleged incident of blasphemy by a Christian man. The violence claimed the lives of seven Christians, including four women and a child, who were burnt alive by the mob.

    In 2013, a Christian couple from Gojra was arrested on charges of alleged blasphemy. The couple was then sentenced to death by a sessions court and the Lahore High Court (LHC). The couple remained behind bars for 8 years and was released in 2021 when the Supreme Court released them citing a lack of evidence.

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