Pakistani man lynched over alleged blasphemy remarks during rally

A Muslim religious leader killed after his speech at an opposition party’s rally in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was deemed blasphemous.

A Pakistani man has been beaten to death for allegedly making blasphemous remarks during an opposition party rally in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a local police official told Al Jazeera.

Nigar Alam, a local Muslim religious leader, was asked to give a speech at a rally organised by former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in the village of Sawaldher in Mardan district.

Alam was killed by the crowd after he “passed some blasphemous remarks that angered people”, a local official, requesting anonymity, told Al Jazeera.

The police initially managed to bring Alam to safety in a nearby shop, but the crowd broke through the door, forcibly dragging him out and beating him with batons. He died on the scene.

Video of the lynching has been shared widely on social media, with police seen vainly trying to stop a frenzied mob from beating the man.

Alam’s body was taken to hospital for further proceedings and an investigation is under way, the official said.

“We have filed a first information report where police itself is the complainant, but due to sensitivity of the matter, the FIR is sealed,” he added.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unproven allegations can stir mobs and violence.

In February, an angry mob entered a police station in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore, snatched a person accused of blasphemy from his cell and killed him.

In December 2021, a Sri Lankan national, Priyantha Diyawadanage, who was working as a factory manager in Pakistan, was beaten to death and set ablaze by an angry crowd over allegations of blasphemy.

The then Prime Minister Khan had publicly criticised Diyawadanage’s killing, calling it a “day of shame for Pakistan”. Months later, six people were sentenced to death for their roles in the vigilante killing.

The same happened to Mashal Khan, a 23-year-old student who was lynched on his university’s campus following a debate about religion.

International and Pakistani rights groups say accusations of blasphemy have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores. Pakistan’s government has long been under pressure to change the country’s blasphemy laws, but other political forces in the country have strongly resisted.

According to the Centre for Social Justice, an independent group advocating for the rights of minorities, more than 2,000 people have been accused of committing blasphemy since 1987, and at least 88 people have been killed by mobs after similar allegations.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies