Pakistan police criticised after mob killing
Mutilation and killing of man suspected of burning the Quran raise questions over police’s ability to protect detainees.
Pakistani police is facing criticism after a man in custody was killed by a mob of vigilantes in Sindh province last month for allegedly desecrating the Quran.
The man was dragged out of his prison cell while still in custody at a police station in Sita village. He was then dropped from the second floor of a building before his body was set alight.
People had invited the man, who looked like a traveller, to spend the night in the local mosque. They said worshippers arriving to pray in the morning found he had burnt pages of the Quran and that they saw him as he was trying to burn more.
Seven police officials have been suspended for being unable to protect the man. The officers say the lynch mob overpowered them after storming the police station.
Fayyaz Leghari, inspector general of Sindh police, told Al Jazeera that 400-500 men had attacked the police station.
“People from this village and surrounding villages got together and amassed outside the police station and subsequently attacked it,” he said.
“There were only 6-7 policeman available at that time, due to the low rate of crime in the small village.”
Police also told Al Jazeera that 37 civilians had been arrested over the attack.
There have been similar cases of vigilante justice on people accused of blasphemy in other parts of Pakistan.
In July last year, 2,000 men forced their way into a police station in south Punjab and burned a homeless and mentally disabled man to death.
In June, mobs attacked police stations in Quetta and Karachi and tried to kill men accused of blasphemy.
In 2011, a 34-year-old merchant who had been legally cleared of blasphemy allegations was shot dead in Rawalpindi.
Leading human rights activists have condemned the attacks and the continued failure of authorities to bring people to justice.
Zahid Hussain, a journalist and author in Islamabad, blamed the increase in vigilante attacks on “the collapse of our judicial and law enforcement systems as well as a rise in extremism”.
“There is hardly any training for police and they are not recruited on merit. Instead they are used for political purpose,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Hardline clerics are also misusing the blasphemy law. We have seen many instances where just on accusation, just on suspicion, people have been killed. Even in some cases, those people who have been acquitted by the court were shot down.”