Doctors in Pakistan have re-attached the hand of a man who says it was chopped off by police who arrested him for theft.

Ghulam Mustafa was accused along with a second man Liaqat Ali of stealing the cables in the Vehari District of southern Punjab, about 120 miles southeast of the nearest major city of Multan.

The men said police chopped off one of each of their hands on Friday, but officers insist the wounds were self-inflicted and an attempt to commit suicide.

"The doctors have rejoined the hand of one of the accused at the government-run Bahawalpur Victoria Hospital, as his skin was still intact and his hand was clinging to him though his wrist bone," Sadiq Ali Gujjar, a local police official told AFP on Tuesday.

He said the severed hand of the other suspect was found in the police station.

The police said they were now investigating two officials over the incident and had suspended five others including the station's chief.

"We are investigating," said Amjad Javaid Saleemi, a senior police official. "We have registered cases against two police officials while five police officials including in-charge of the police station have been suspended."

Severing the hand of a thief is a punishment prescribed in Islamic law.

Hina Jilani, a supreme court lawyer and rights activist, said the incident was indicative of a growing trend of religiously motivated vigilantism.

"The incident shows that this society is drifting fast towards barbarism," she said. "When the state machinery is habitual of giving inhumane penalties and taking the law into its own hands, than the notion of rule of law exists no more."

Source: AFP