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Shadows of Extremism: The Tragic Tale of Mob Justice and Blasphemy in Pakistan

Original article: Mentally Challenged Man Killed in Pakistan for Burning Koran by Religious Fanatics | ECSPE

Over the last two decades, extremism has seen a marked increase in Pakistan, often fueled by accusations of blasphemy. This has contributed to a harsh societal shift where acts of violence, seemingly justified by religious fervor, are carried out without a trace of regret for the loss of human life.

A recent appalling episode unfolded in a secluded village in Eastern Pakistan, where a crowd took the law into their own hands by lethally pelting a middle-aged man with stones. This act of mob justice was sparked by allegations of the man desecrating pages of the Quran.

The incident was reported by Chaudhry Imran, a police spokesperson, who detailed that the local mosque’s caretaker claimed to have witnessed the man engaging in the act of burning the Muslim holy book within the mosque premises on a Saturday evening. After observing this, the caretaker quickly spread the word among the villagers before alerting the police. This tragic event took place in Talamba, a village situated in the Khanewal district of Punjab province, highlighting the ongoing struggle against extremism and the challenges faced in ensuring the sanctity of law and human rights.

Continuing the narrative, it was noted that upon arrival, law enforcement officials encountered a man besieged by a furious crowd. Officer Muhammad Iqbal, along with two junior officers, attempted to take the accused into custody. This effort, however, provoked the mob further, leading them to hurl stones towards the officers, resulting in serious injuries to Muhammad Iqbal and his two colleagues.

Despite the initial response, the situation escalated before additional police support could effectively intervene. By the time reinforcements arrived at the mosque, the mob had taken a drastic and irreversible step. The individual, who was reported to have mental health challenges, had been fatally stoned by the crowd and his body was then displayed in a gruesome manner, hung from a tree. This incident starkly illustrates the extreme consequences of mob justice and highlights the urgent need for measures to prevent such vigilante violence and protect vulnerable individuals within the community.

The individual subjected to this tragic fate was identified as Mushtaq Ahmed, a 41-year-old man from a neighboring village. His family revealed that for the last 15 years, Mushtaq had been grappling with mental health issues. His condition often led him to wander away from home, during which times he would rely on whatever food he could scavenge.

Mian Mohammad Ramzan, the custodian of the mosque and a witness to the initial incident, recounted noticing smoke emanating from the mosque, which was close to his residence. Upon investigation, he discovered Mushtaq in the act of burning a Quran and attempting to burn another. Despite Ramzan’s efforts to halt the act by raising an alarm, the situation quickly escalated as individuals gathered for evening prayers.

Eyewitnesses from the locality reported that a police unit did reach the scene before the violence escalated and managed to arrest the accused. However, the situation deteriorated when the gathered crowd overpowered the police, took custody of Mushtaq, and attacked the officers attempting to rescue him. The mob, undeterred by the law enforcement presence, proceeded to stone Mushtaq and then gruesomely displayed his body by hanging it from a tree.

This incident is not an isolated one; it echoes a previous case where a Sri Lankan factory manager was killed and his body burned by a mob in Sialkot, driven by a similar extremist mindset. Such incidents underscore a disturbing trend in Pakistan, a country where the government and its institutions have struggled to protect their citizens from mob justice fueled by blasphemy accusations. In this conservative Islamic nation, accusations of blasphemy—which can carry the death penalty—are not uncommonly manipulated to oppress religious minorities or settle personal scores, revealing a deep-seated issue with the misuse of blasphemy laws and the urgent need for reform to safeguard human rights and ensure justice.

By Farrukh Saif

Farrukh Saif is a Pakistani human rights activist based in Germany. He founded his own organization, the Farrukh Saif Foundation (FSF), in 2009 with the goal of supporting marginalized and oppressed minorities in Pakistan who are affected by religious discrimination, blasphemy laws, forced conversions, abductions, rape, and bonded slavery. The main focus of the FSF is on the liberation of bonded laborers, particularly those working in brick kilns in rural areas of Pakistan. In 2018, the FSF merged with the US-based Emergency Committee to Save the Persecuted and Enslaved. Throughout his career, Farrukh has been a leading voice for the rights of minorities in Pakistan and has gained international attention for his campaigns against the misuse of blasphemy laws and the belief that asylum is not a crime. In 2014, he played a key role in the release of hundreds of asylum seekers from Thai jails and has worked with his legal team to save numerous victims of strict blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Farrukh has also been invited by the Hungarian government to discuss his work and the issues he addresses. In addition to his work with the FSF, Farrukh has also been involved in various other humanitarian efforts, including providing health care services to internally displaced persons in Khayber Pakhtoon Khawa in 2009 and assisting flood victims in Sindh and Punjab in 2010. He has worked to aid victimized minorities in Pakistan and has a strong track record of successfully advocating for their rights. Farrukh joined forces with Keith Davies in 2018 to co-found the Emergency Committee to Save The Persecuted and Enslaved, and since 2009, they have collectively successfully rescued more than 36000 individuals from slavery and persecution.