By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News with sources in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD (Worthy News) – A mentally challenged man was tortured to death by an angry crowd late Saturday in Pakistan’s Punjab province over alleged blasphemy against Islam, several sources confirmed to Worthy News.
Video footage obtained by Worthy News showed men dragging someone to the street in Talumba village in the Mian Channu area of Punjab’s Khanewal district. They then threw stones at the man, identified as Rana Mushtaq Ahmad, lying in pain on the ground.
Others joined in with what appeared to be sticks and large knives under the cover of darkness. Some laughed as they made recordings with their cell phones or used the lights of their mobile devices to see better the killing unfold.
Earlier, the man was hanged from a tree, according to a well-informed rights lawyer involved in advocacy for people accused of blasphemy. “The accused has been suffering mental illness for last 15 to 16 years,” added lawyer Nadeem Anthony in an interview with Worthy News.
The middle-aged victim was reportedly a Muslim by faith and was accused of burning pages of the Koran, deemed a holy book by Muslims. “The imam falsely accused this innocent man because he acted differently than other worshipers. After the imam said through loudspeakers that he captured a ’blasphemous’ man who had torched Koranic pages, an angry crowd arrived and dragged him out of the street,” explained Anthony.
The man was then tortured and hanged at a tree, the lawyer recalled. “Local police arrived to rescue and arrest Ahmad, but the crowd snatched the man away to kill him. The footage you obtained showed the final moments before his death,” Anthony told Worthy News. “Security forces did not intervene, the footage showed. “This was criminal negligence from police,” Anthony stressed.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said he had “taken notice of the incident.”
He ordered “the Inspector General of Punjab Police to submit a report after conducting a thorough investigation,” according to remarks shared with Worthy News.
A spokesman for the official said he ensured that “those behind the tragic incident would be brought to justice.”
Saturday’s lynching was the latest attack in Pakistan against people accused of blasphemy, which often included Christians and mentally challenged persons.
Since 1987, at least 1,500 people have been charged with blasphemy, and at least 75 people accused of blasphemy were killed, according to the Lahore-based Center for Social Justice.
Critics say Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy legislation contributed to an atmosphere of hatred in the Islamic country towards those accused of attacking Islam.
The law has also been misused to settle personal grievances, according to human rights watchdogs. Many Christians, as well as Muslims and others, have been jailed, often for years, on what attorneys call trumped-up charges of blasphemy.
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