07/05/2012, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Punjab: Muslim extremists burn alive a mentally disabled man accused of blasphemy

by Jibran Khan
The man, whose names is still unknown, was detained at the police Chani Goth station, in Bahawalpur. A mob, incited by local religious leaders, dragged him from his cell, doused him with petrol and set him on fire. In the raid police vehicles burned and four officers beaten. Bishop of Islamabad: it's time to introduce some changes to the law.

Bahawalpur (AsiaNews) - A mob of Muslim extremists, incited by local religious leaders, last July 3 raided in a prison in Bahawalpur (Punjab) dragging a man from his cell. The assailants poured gasoline on him and set him on fire, because previously it was rumored that he was guilty of blasphemy. The prison officers were unable to contain the attack of the fanatics, four policemen were injured and several are now hospitalized in the prison. Currently there is little information on the generality of man, burned alive with inhuman brutality, who died as a result of serious injuries. From preliminary reports it appears that he had mental problems and had been thrown into a cell, while the investigators looked into the alleged violation of the "black law". However, rumors that he had burned the Koran spread rapidly triggering the reaction of the fundamentalists and yet another extrajudicial killing over an alleged case of blasphemy.

The deputy-inspector of the district of Bahawalpur tells the story to AsiaNews. The Chani Goth police station, said the official, received a complaint that a man "burned pages of the Koran." The agents arrested him and put him into a cell. Meanwhile, some religious leaders "announced through loudspeakers that a person had committed blasphemy against Islam". Thus, a crowd gathered outside the prison demanding the surrender of the alleged criminal. "They even blocked the main road" he continues, then "they ripped open the door and attacked the officers: I also suffered injuries in the assault."

Before they had any information on the man - who is still unknown - or having ascertain his mental health status and the alleged blasphemy case, the crowd doused him in gasoline and set him on fire (pictured, a time of the fire). The deputy inspector emphasized that extremists set fire to some vehicles parked inside the police and "the assault continued for over two hours," until "the man was not completely burned."

The body will be autopsied and investigators are awaiting the results to try to give him an identity, so far no one has claimed the body, or reported family members missing. Meanwhile, human rights organizations and activists, including Masihi Foundation Pakistan and Life for All, denounced the latest extra-judicial murder based on a rumor of blasphemy. Many points the finger at the police, unable to guarantee the safety of those arrested and to contain the madness of extremist groups, which often act driven by local religious leaders.

The Catholic Diocese of Bahawalpur express a firm condemnation of the episiodo: Fr. Zafar Samuel speaks of an "inhumane act" and hopes the introduction of initiatives "aimed at creating greater awareness about the cases of blasphemy and associated laws." He is echoed by the Bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, according to whom "taking the law into your own hands is not applying the law." It is time to "introduce some changes in legislation," added Bishop. Rufin Anthony, and to introduce laws that "protect the innocent and give security to the persons accused and on trial." "How much blood must still be shed - he ends - before the authorities understand that it is time for change."

And the mind of the Christian community turns to Asia Bibi, the 46 year-old mother of five children, sentenced to death in November 2010 under the "black law" and now waiting for her appeal trail, locked in solitary confinement in Sheikhupura women's prison (in Punjab). For her release have also mobilized the Governor of Punjab Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Religious Minorities: both were murdered last year, at the hands of Islamic extremists. Pope Benedict XVI launched an appeal for the liberation of Asia Bibi, tried physically and morally by long imprisonment.

The blasphemy laws in the last 20 years have resulted in attacks against entire communities, as occurred in Shantinagar and Multan (1997), or in the recent past in Gojra (2009), with deaths and dozens of homes burned. According to data from the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Church (NCJP), from 1986 to August 2009 at least 964 people were charged with desecrating the Koran or defaming the Prophet Muhammad. Among these 479 were Muslims, 119 Christians, 340 Ahmadis, 14 Hindus and 10 from other religions. It also provides a pretext for attacks, personal vendettas or extra-judicial killings: about 35 so far, made by individuals or mobs as in this case.

 

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