Mob torches fac­tory in Pak­istan fol­low­ing blas­phemy ac­cu­sa­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

LA­HORE: An an­gry mob in Pak­istan’s Pun­jab prov­ince torched a fac­tory af­ter one of its employees was ac­cused of com­mit­ting blas­phemy, po­lice of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day. Hun­dreds of peo­ple sur­rounded a chip­board fac­tory in Jehlum city on Fri­day night and set the fa­cil­ity ablaze af­ter re­ports sur­faced that one em­ployee had al­legedly des­e­crated the Holy Qu­ran.

“The in­ci­dent took place af­ter we ar­rested the head of se­cu­rity at the fac­tory, Qa­mar Ahmed Tahir, for com­plaints that he or­dered the burn­ing of the holy book ,” Ad­nan Ma­lik, a se­nior po­lice of­fi­cial in the area, told AFP. Ac­cord­ing to po­lice, Tahir be­longs to the Ah­madi sect, a group who have been de­clared nonMus­lims by the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment be­cause of their be­lief in a prophet af­ter Muham­mad (PBUH). The Ah­madis are fre­quent vic­tims of dis­crim­i­na­tion and vi­o­lent as­saults.

Yes­ter­day, an­other mob gath­ered in the town of Kala Gu­jran near Jehlum and torched the homes of sev­eral Ah­madi fam­i­lies and an Ah­madi mosque. Mil­i­tary troops have been sent in to pa­trol the area and bring the sit­u­a­tion un­der con­trol. Blas­phemy is a hugely sen­si­tive is­sue in Pak­istan, an Is­lamic repub­lic of some 200 mil­lion, where even un­proven al­le­ga­tions fre­quently stir mob violence and lynch­ing.

Crit­ics in­clud­ing Euro­pean gov­ern­ments say the coun­try’s blas­phemy laws are of­ten mis­used to set­tle per­sonal scores. Ac­cord­ing to po­lice, an­other em­ployee at the fac­tory had re­ported that Tahir was over­see­ing the burn­ing of the holy book in the fa­cil­ity’s boiler and in­ter­vened to stop the act.

“We reg­is­tered a blas­phemy case against Tahir, who is Ah­madi by faith, and ar­rested him af­ter con­fis­cat­ing the burnt ma­te­rial, which also in­cluded copies of the Ko­ran,” po­lice of­fi­cial Ma­lik said. Fol­low­ing the ar­rest, a mob re­port­edly de­scended on the fac­tory, set­ting it alight. A spokesman for the lo­cal Ah­madi com­mu­nity said three of their mem­bers were ar­rested in the in­ci­dent’s wake.

“Three mem­bers of our com­mu­nity have been ar­rested by po­lice un­der the charges of blas­phemy. There is an ac­cu­sa­tion of burn­ing the pages of the Ko­ran,” Saleem Ud Din told AFP.

Dis­trict po­lice chief Mu­jahid Af­sar said that au­thor­i­ties were try­ing to ne­go­ti­ate with the com­mu­ni­ties and calm down the sit­u­a­tion but Din said that the at­mos­phere was still vi­o­lent. Eleven Ah­madis were mur­dered for their faith in 2014 and au­thor­i­ties failed to ap­pre­hend any of the killers, a re­port said in April, high­light­ing grow­ing in­tol­er­ance to­ward the sect. — AFP

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