A Muslim man said to be suffering from mental illness was killed by a mob in Khanewal, Punjab Province, Pakistan, on Feb. 12 after he was accused of burning pages of the Quran.
Mushtaq Ahmed (other sources have named him as Mohammed Mushtaq or Mushtaq Rajput), was reportedly beaten and stoned to death by a mob of hundreds who tied him to a tree. Local police had reportedly arrested Ahmed, but he was seized from their custody.
At least 80 people were arrested in relation to the killing, and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the incident in a statement, saying, “We have zero tolerance for anyone taking the law into their own hands [and] mob lynchings will be dealt with full severity of the law.”
Ahmed is believed to have been in his 40s and was described by the Chief of Tulamba police station, Munawar Gujjar, as having been “mentally unstable for the last 15 years.”
The killing comes just over two months after a mob in Sialkot, also in Punjab province, lynched Priyantha Diyawadana, a Sri Lankan national who was later identified as a Buddhist, after he was accused of desecrating posters bearing the name of Prophet Mohammed by colleagues at the factory where he worked.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws criminalize anyone who insults Islam, including by outraging religious feeling, which carries the death penalty or life imprisonment. These laws are poorly defined and require low standards for evidence. As a result, they are often used as a weapon of revenge against both Muslims and non-Muslims to settle personal scores or to resolve disputes over money, property or business.
In a separate incident on Feb. 13, a man was attacked by a mob, also for allegedly burning pages of the Quran, in the city of Faisalabad. Fortunately, the police were able to rescue the man and move him and his family to an undisclosed location.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said, “CSW extends our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Mushtaq Ahmed. His murder, taking place so soon after that of Priyantha Diyawadana, is another disturbing reminder of the dangerous implications of Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws. We reiterate that these laws are wholly incompatible with the fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief and must be reviewed urgently, moving towards their full repeal in the long term. We also call on Punjab authorities to ensure that a full investigation is carried out, and that all those responsible for this horrific act are held to account.”