Pakistan passes resolution against mob lynchings after man burned alive for blasphemy

Police guard Presbyterian church building in Sargodha, Pakistan, on May 26, 2024.
Police guard Presbyterian church building in Sargodha, Pakistan, on May 26, 2024. | Screengrab: Facebook/(Christian Daily International-Morning Star News

The National Assembly of Pakistan has passed a resolution to ensure the safety of all citizens, including religious minorities, in the wake of a horrific incident where a local tourist was tortured and killed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province’s Swat Valley after being accused of desecrating a copy of the Quran.

Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif this week urged the National Assembly to adopt a clear stance against such acts of violence. “This House takes serious notice of the recent mob lynchings of our citizens accused of offenses in Swat and Sargodha,” Arab News quoted Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar as saying while presenting the resolution.

“It is noted with grave concern that such incidents have recently increased in different parts of the country,” the minister added. “The House strongly condemns these horrific and tragic incidents which cannot be tolerated in any civilized society.”

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The resolution was passed unanimously on Monday, The Express Tribune reported.

The victim of the latest lynching incident last week, identified only as a tourist from Punjab Province, was beaten by an enraged mob that stormed a police station in Swat Valley where he was detained, dragged him out and set his body on fire. 

Weeks earlier, in Sargodha city, a Christian community was attacked by a violent Muslim mob in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province, instigated by a local cleric over allegations of blasphemy and 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 late last month. The mob, which claimed that a 70-year-old Christian man had desecrated a copy of the Quran, burned down of the man’s small shoemaking factory. The victim, identified as Nazir Masih, later succumbed to his injuries.

The resolution stressed that every individual must be treated in accordance with the law and not subjected to mob justice. It also urged federal and provincial governments to ensure the security of all citizens, especially vulnerable segments of society.

Parallel to the actions of the National Assembly, the Punjab Assembly also passed a similar resolution, a significant step in Pakistan’s legislative efforts to address the misuse of blasphemy laws and protect minority rights.

Nasir Saeed, director of the rights group CLAAS-UK, lauded the initiative. In a statement sent to The Christian Post, Saeed said, “At least politicians have started discussing this law in parliament, with Christian MPs being particularly supportive. I appreciate their courage and pray for them.”

Saeed added, “I hope that this discussion does not stop here but that politicians will strive to find solutions to stop the continuous misuse of the blasphemy law and to save innocent lives.”

Legal processes over blasphemy in Pakistan often precede mob actions based on rumors or complaints, with many of these cases resulting in no serious consequences for the perpetrators. This has been noted in reports by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, criticizing the frequent impunity in such cases.

Under the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, the death penalty can be given for insulting Islam. It carries no provision to punish a false accuser or a false witness.

In 2011, the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his bodyguard for speaking out against the blasphemy laws.

That same year, Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy, sparking international outrage, leading to her acquittal in 2018 after spending eight years on death row.

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