Mob storms Pakistani police station, lynches man accused of blasphemy

Mob storms Pakistani police station, lynches man accused of blasphemy
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A mob in eastern Pakistan stormed a police station on Saturday and lynched a man under custody and accused of blasphemy, police said, in the latest incident of religion-linked violence in the Islamic republic.

The country has seen numerous cases of vigilante action by mobs against people accused of blasphemy, one of the highest profiled ones being the lynching of a Sri Lankan national, a garment factory manager, in 2021.

On Saturday, Muhammad Waris, a man in his early 20s, was taken into police custody after a mob attacked him for allegedly desecrating the Koran, the Muslim holy book, police spokesman Muhammad Waqas told Reuters.

However, the mob stormed the station, located in the city of Nankana Sahib, took Waris out of the premises, beat him to death and attempted to set his body on fire, Waqas added.

"Police could not resist them because a handful of officials were present in the police station," he said, adding that police reinforcements were able to stop the mob from setting the body alight, and were readying action against the crowd.

A video of the incident, shared on social media and confirmed as authentic by the police, showed a man being dragged through the streets by his legs, stripped of his clothes and being pummelled by sticks and metal rods.

International rights groups have long criticised Pakistani authorities for not doing enough to stem lynchings over accusations of blasphemy, which have been frequent in the Muslim-majority country. Blasphemy is also a crime under Pakistani law, which can carry the death sentence.

Six men were sentenced to death for lynching the Sri Lankan garment factory manager in a mass trial that involved some 89 suspects after the matter sparked national and global outrage. However, other cases rarely see similar action.

A number of police officials have been suspended because of their inability to stop the mob, a statement from the police said. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has taken notice of the incident and ordered an inquiry, the government said.