Police arrested 85 suspects on Sunday, including 15 key suspects, for lynching a man in Khanewal district over alleged blasphemy.

Mushtaq Rajput, son of Bashir Ahmed of Chak 12, Khanewal was described by his brother as a middle-aged man who was reportedly suffering from a mental illness.

According to the Punjab police, video footage was used to assist in the identification and arrest of the perpetrators.

Following reports that a man had desecrated the Holy Quran, hundreds of people gathered in Jungle Dera village after Maghrib prayers where Mushtaq was caught by the mob, which started beating him.

According to eyewitness accounts, police arrived on the scene and took Mushtaq into custody, but he was snatched again by the mob.

After tying him to a tree, the mob beat him up before stoning him to death.

According to eyewitnesses, the victim had been mentally unstable for a long time. His brother said that Mushtaq had been under the treatment of a doctor for years.

The lynching occurred just 10 weeks after a Sri Lankan national was lynched in Sialkot.

IGP Rao Sardar said police have opened a terrorism case against 300 suspects, including 33 nominated accused, in a first report handed to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.

The police conducted 120 raids and apprehended people, according to the IGP, who said that the accused included the key suspects. To identify further suspects, the police would conduct forensic analysis of available footage. Police conducted their secret operation all night on orders from the CM and IGP, and all top police officers remained in the field.

TAHIR ASHRAFI: Meanwhile, Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman and PM’s Special Representative for Religious Harmony, Allama Tahir Ashrafi, at a press conference at Khanewal DC office, condemned the incident and said the prime minister had ordered stern punishment against the perpetrators.

He asked the courts to decide matters like this as soon as possible.

BILAWAL: PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, reacting to the tragedy, said the lynching had once again humiliated the nation and tarnished Pakistan’s image.

“Events like the Mian Channu tragedy after the Sialkot are a moment of reflection for us and the government should conduct a transparent investigation into this tragedy and those responsible should be punished. The mob killings are a question mark on the government’s writ,” he added.

He claimed that if violent groups were left uncontrolled, the entire society would be insecure. To put an end to mob killings, he urged for all stakeholders to get on the same page.

HRCP: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said in a statement that the cruelty with which the mob killed its helpless victim — even wresting him from police custody — demonstrates all too well that blasphemy claims have long gone beyond a law-and-order issue. When the government’s own minister dismissed a similar incident as a case of “high emotions,” it’s simply not enough to state the government has a “zero-tolerance” attitude for such culprits.

“The state has consistently pandered to political and religious groups that have never had any qualms about encouraging religious fanaticism. HRCP notes with grave concern a seeming uptick in mob vigilantism and warns the government that, if it does not pushback against fanaticism on all fronts, it is ordinary citizens who will continue to pay the price,” the statement concluded.


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