Enraged Muslim mob attacks Christians in Pakistan over blasphemy claim

BANARAS KHAN/AFP via Getty Images
BANARAS KHAN/AFP via Getty Images

A Christian community was attacked by a violent Muslim mob Saturday in Pakistan's eastern Punjab province. The violence was instigated by a local cleric over allegations of blasphemy, leading to significant violence and property damage. Social media footage depicted scenes of chaos, including a mob surrounding a bloodied man and teenagers destroying furniture.

The mob in Sargodha city’s Mujahid Colony claimed that a 70-year-old Christian man had desecrated a copy of the Quran, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported, adding that the attack took place “on the instigation of a local cleric.”

The mob’s fury resulted in the burning down of the man’s small shoemaking factory, as reported by DW.

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Faraz Pervaiz shared on X footage of the unrest, saying, "Tehreek-e-Labbaik Extremist Muslim mob has attacked Christians In Majaheed Colony Sargodha vandalizing several churches and setting scores of houses on fire after accusing one of Christian of desecrating a Quran."

The Christian Post could not verify the authenticity of the footage shared on social media.

Sargodha police chief Sariq Khan was quoted as saying that at least five people were rescued from the violence and taken to a hospital, noting the rioters had also hurled stones and bricks at the police.

District Police Chief Ijaz Malhi said the situation was eventually brought under control. He added that the individual accused of blasphemy was in custody, and an investigation is underway. He added that police had been stationed throughout Sargodha to help protect the Christian community.

“Thanks to the timely action of the police. Sargodha was spared a great tragedy,” the statement from the police said, adding that over 2,000 officers were on security duty, ensuring no further violence occurred.

Footage of the incident shared on social media showed a large blaze outside a house, however. The police chief refuted the authenticity of these videos and claimed they were “fake videos,” insisting no one was injured, a statement contradicted by a relative of an injured person who stated his uncle was in critical condition at a hospital and the family was not allowed to see him.

A statement from Minority Rights March referred to videos showing a mob attacking a 70-year-old man at the instigation of a local cleric while the man’s home and factory were set ablaze. They accused the Punjab police of being passive observers during the attack, indicating tacit approval of the violence.

An official from Punjab’s interior ministry, Noor-ul-Amin Mengal, was quoted as saying, “Pakistan belongs to all of us; no injustice will be tolerated under the guise of religion. Action will be taken according to the law after a complete investigation.”

A district peace committee, comprising of officials and religious scholars from both Muslim and minority communities, was announced to evaluate the situation.

The blasphemy laws in Pakistan, under which the death penalty can be given for insulting Islam, have often led to mob violence.

In August 2023, attacks against Christians occurred in Jaranwala town, where churches and homes were torched following blasphemy accusations against two local Christians.

In December 2021, a mob killed a Sri Lankan man over blasphemy allegations. Although arrests were made, no legislative changes have occurred to curb false accusations.

Christians make up roughly 1.6% of Pakistan’s 241 million population.

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