‘Blasphemer’ attacked in Pakistan


Central / South Asia

Central / South Asia

An angry crowd in southern Pakistan has attacked the house of a woman accused of desecrating the Koran, police say.

Police officials said the woman was taken into protective custody minutes before protestors broke into her house.

It is the latest in a series of attacks on religious grounds. On Saturday seven Christians were killed for allegedly desecrating the Koran.

Hundreds of people have been lynched since the mid-1980s when blasphemy laws were introduced in Pakistan.

The BBC’s M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says there is recurring evidence that people have sought to settle personal scores with victims by inflaming religious feelings.

‘Desecration’

Police said that on Thursday a crowd attacked the house of 60-year-old Akhtari Begum, a Muslim, after a shopkeeper accused her of desecrating the Koran at his shop in the Sanghar district of southern Sindh province.

The police arrived at the scene when people reached the woman’s house and were throwing stones at it, witnesses said.

“The shopkeeper, Mohammad Siddique, says Akhtari Begum disrespectfully flung about pages of the Koran at his shop on Thursday morning,” a senior police official, Abid Qaimkhani, told the BBC.

“The women says it wasn’t the Koran she flung to the ground but a register in which the shopkeeper had listed her credit,” he said.

Tensions have been running high in Pakistan in recent days over the alleged treatment of the Muslim holy book.

Two days ago, workers at a leather factory in the town of Muridke in the province of Punjab killed two people after similar accusations were made.

Najeeb Zafar, the owner of the factory, was taking down an old calendar from the wall when a factory supervisor, Mr Qasim, objected to it, police told the BBC.

Wall calendars in Pakistan often carry verses from the holy book.

‘Pre-meditated’

Following an altercation with the owner, Mr Qasim went out and gathered factory workers as well as local residents, telling them that the factory owner had desecrated the Koran, police and witnesses said.

After the crowed stormed the factory, snatching weapons from the security guards Mr Zafar and a co-worker were killed.

Police officials told the BBC that the actual motive behind the violence may have been an ongoing dispute over wages between the factory owner and the workers.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said that violence in another Punjab town, Gojra, last Saturday was “premeditated”, and not a spontaneous outburst.

At least seven Christians were killed and more than 40 of their houses gutted in a fire when after allegations that they had desecrated the Koran.

The HRCP found that announcements had been made from mosques in Gojra town the previous night calling upon people to make “mincemeat” of local Christians for their “blasphemous” acts.

The mission’s report, made public on Tuesday, blamed the police for ignoring these warnings.

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